Doug Garnett

President, Protonik
Doug Garnett has spent his career with innovation and is an expert on using marketing to increase ROI for ground breaking consumer products distributed through online and retail outlets. Doug is the founder and President of Protonik, LLC — a consultancy focused on the unusual marketing needs of innovative products and services. Protonik works with manufacturers, brands, inventors, and retailers.

Prior to forming Protonik, Doug spent 20 years as founder and CEO of ad agency Atomic Direct. Atomic leveraged TV across all ranges of broadcast, cable and web to drive sales. Atomic’s work covered a wide range of products, but had particularly specialty with home, hardware and automotive products.

Doug taught for 13 years in the business school at Portland State University. He writes and speaks regularly about the unique challenges facing companies when they attempt to use innovative products to create demand and build brand. In addition to his role with the RetailWire BrainTrust, he is a member of the BWG Advisory board, the Response Magazine advisory board, author of the book "Building Brands with Direct Response Television," and can be followed on Twitter @AtomicAdMan.

Doug started as a mathematician at aerospace giant General Dynamics where he worked on the Atlas-Centaur launch vehicles, the Space Shuttle, and the Tomahawk Cruise Missile program. He spent 5 years in marketing and sales of scientific supercomputers before finding his true home — in advertising for retail products. Doug has worked with Lowe’s Home Improvement Stores, Rubbermaid, AT&T, DisneyMobile, AAA of California, The Joint Chiropractic, Professional Tool Manufacturing (Drill Doctor), Kreg Tools, P&G, Apple Computer, Sears, Braun, DuPont (Teflon, Stainmaster), and Hamilton Beach.
  • Posted on: 04/20/2018

    What are retailers missing about building a workplace culture?

    This is all fine. Yet nearly every retailer follows ISO9001 and imposes measurements on store personnel performance which are used more to punish than to reward -- and which appear absurd to store associates who know they are punished for corporate policies, not their own choices. Retailers need to fix this and do it now. And they need to do this by being honest with themselves about the dysfunctional world they’ve created. Unfortunately, it makes complete sense within HQ politics and is important for political survival. True courage is required to recognize this and take steps to fix things ... to find ways to work with store personnel that reward the important things and stop punishing store personnel for what’s not their responsibility.
  • Posted on: 04/13/2018

    Will electric vehicles prove a bane or a boon for c-stores and energy drinks?

    So far, adoption of all electric cards in the US is running well behind expectations. So this looks to be likely a theoretical question. But while changes like this can have a big impact on markets, “disruption” theorists have also cursed us with the idea that businesses should last forever by disrupting themselves enough. That’s not actually true. These theorists often point to the railroads & claim they lost their power because they saw themselves as rail roads not “movers of goods.” In other words, if they’d been smart enough they would have started truck lines and air lines. Except the story falls apart against reality. Rightly or wrongly, the railroads were regulated in ways that legally prevented those expansions. For my part, I’ve been part of two industries that either went away or dissipated to a fraction of their size -- aerospace and the supercomputer business. In neither case would disruption have changed the end result. So ... yes. Monster and others might have a problem. It’s a typical challenge for a business -- not an unusual one. The best question to ask, then, is how accepting that it’s a possible reality will change how we should manage businesses.
  • Posted on: 04/12/2018

    Will a mobile game and free pizza combo deliver sales for Domino’s?

    There’s a possibility this will work for Domino’s. But there’s also a serious possibility it’s distracting them from other, more useful activities. There’s also a very good chance that they’re generating negative returns via their loyalty program. Loyalty in pizza delivery has a lot to do with price, geographic location and delivery service. These factors will drive loyalty far more than a game.
  • Posted on: 04/12/2018

    Is product discovery now the biggest pain point for mobile buys?

    Huh. It’s no surprise that product discovery is hard on mobile. In fact, product discovery is all online shopping’s weakness -- much less on the tiniest of screens. What retailers should pay attention to is that the only possible response today to the problem is the one Qubit is offering ... and it’s one that offers only tiny advantages. A classic case of a hammer being the only tool available so it’s recommended for tightening nuts. At core, all these AI-based promises are using complicated solutions to attempt to solve a complex problem. And as Rick Nason writes in his book about complexity, it can’t work ... ever. Retailers need, instead, to use mobile for what it’s good at -- not what it’s bad at.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2018

    Walmart slows push to add third-party sellers to its online marketplace

    We have finally arrived at the point where the error of the “infinite aisle” theory is becoming clear. And let’s not just point to Walmart. Amazon is pushing hard on smaller sellers and many of its suppliers to reduce their roles. Besides the fact that “infinite aisle” is a dystopian phrase, in truth it’s hard to manage and subject to the laws of diminishing returns. So does this show a problem with Walmart’s strategy? Not in any sense. It shows me that Walmart’s being smart about e-commerce rather than getting distracted by theory.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2018

    What makes a successful retail CEO?

    Retail CEOs need to have come up from the store level -- they need the instincts about consumers that can only be formed by watching people shop, learning from organizing the store for higher sales and a fundamental sense of the relationship between product and retail success. That said, the skill I find missing most often is a well developed sense of strategy. They need to sort between strategies that lead to success and those that lead to failure. Even more, they need to know how to execute strategy for success. I point out strategy because most C-suite execs have proven themselves exceptionally skilled at execution -- that’s how they get there. Skills for leading the development of smart strategy and execution of strategy haven’t been nurtured.
  • Posted on: 04/10/2018

    Retailers must unite to bring dying downtowns back to life

    Good points. What's interesting in Denver is that Larimer Street is the area that turned into the stroll/shop area -- although it's not a large area. Partly, where Boulder converted to a mall an already thriving shopping area, Denver tried to force the 16th street mall to be what it wanted -- where Larimer had a more interesting set of local shops. I'll have to look up that article. Thanks.
  • Posted on: 04/10/2018

    Retailers must unite to bring dying downtowns back to life

    I remember when Boulder, Colorado turned their downtown Main Street into the Pearl Street Mall back in the 1970s. And it created an instant success -- a place to gather and shop as an alternative to the big stores oriented to drive-up shopping. So it can be done. However when Denver quickly tried the same idea with a downtown mall, that mall never drew a set of shops that made it worth being a destination. I wish I knew more of the history. But Boulder’s mall was made with retailers in place. Denver’s mall didn’t stop the flight to the suburbs and many retailers disappeared after it was put in. Clearly a downtown revival won’t happen without individuals willing to fund and build the stores that will draw people to shop. If those shops are in place, then an effort like this can work. If those shops aren’t in place, then there needs to be commitment that they will come or an effort like this is likely doomed.
  • Posted on: 04/10/2018

    Barnes & Noble’s crowdsourcing app engages readers and earns solid reviews

    It’s unlikely that this app will create “deeper engagement” with Barnes & Noble. But perhaps a group of people will find books they like and another group will find satisfaction contributing their opinions. This looks like a fundamentally smart move -- but one that will have incremental advantage without being the “killer app.”
  • Posted on: 04/09/2018

    Where will the ‘new generation of female explorers’ take The North Face’s business?

    Each marketer has to make their own choice here. But I'm always cautious about that fuzzy line between "this is important for society" and "this is a case of tyranny of a small population." Marketers, after all, must pay homage to the unbending dictatorship of statistics -- do these kinds of ads affect enough of their target market to pay off? A committed vocal minority can force poor advertising choices. In this case, I think it's possible that The North Face has made a smart choice. That said, I'll suggest that these women's ads could well suffer the same problem with many ads for men: These exaggerated "heroes" may not really be that appealing to the target market. The "risk taker" male stereotypes are often offensive -- meaning the advertiser starts implying "if you're not like this you're not doing things right" even though 90% of their purchasers aren't the least bit like those they feature in their ads. The North Face needs to take the same care when featuring adventurous women.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2018

    Is Walmart building a tower of power with its expanding in-store pickup network?

    Yes. This is a smart evolution of the online store and solves many things at once. Placement in the store problems will be solved over time. But we should expect to see this approach expand to other retailers. And I feel a bit shy of being so positive -- retailers are far too often distracted by shiny baubles. But this is finally an idea that is no more shiny bauble, but something practical that solves a serious problem.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2018

    Retailers face criticism for failure to protect customer data

    In the question of breaches, it's so easy for Monday morning quarterbacks to claim something more should have been done. But retailers (and anyone else working in cyber security) seem to be working in a situation dominated by two truths:
    1. One can spend an infinite amount of money attempting to create a system that cannot be breached AND constantly changing the system to respond to the aggressive pace at which new breach tactics appear from the bad guys.
    2. No matter how close to "infinite" your spending becomes, your system will one day be breached. Absolute reality.
    That's no excuse to relax retail vigilance on the issue. Every time I see a story like this I'm torn between anger that the bad guys always find a way, concern that retailers might not have done enough, and sympathy for the retailer because they are in a no-win situation.
  • Posted on: 04/06/2018

    Can MoviePass help revive America’s malls?

    MoviePass will end up a failure. They have an unsustainable business model that they seem to justify with “if we can only get enough people to sign up there’s gotta be a way to make money some day.” Their only hope is to get bought -- so malls shouldn’t be basing any future plans on MoviePass themselves. But what about movies and malls in general? To a degree they are a good match. The more people are comfortable going to the mall the more they’ll eventually buy. And I recommend caution for two reasons. Shoppers are shopping -- not looking for entertainment. And the only solid profitability comes when those shoppers are buying goods. Also, it’s too easy for stores or malls to embrace “entertainment” theories and end up being c-grade amusement parks with d-grade merchandise. To BE entertainment is far harder than today’s Faith Popcorn’s of retail will admit.
  • Posted on: 04/03/2018

    Why are there so many employees in a cashier-less store?

    Retailers overplay the idea that they should get rid of checkstands. Just watch what people do at a checkstand -- and how the “friction” provided there is a benefit to their controlling their money. They verify that items rang up correctly, they re-examine their purchases to ensure they want all the items, they are able to double check the total against their budget and return items if over budget and more. Most interesting in this article is the idea that perhaps the Go concept is more about technology for inventory and re-stocking. Had they announced it as such, this Amazon effort would have been relegated to the back pages. But as cashier-free checkout, the headlines were huge. Remember to consider Amazon like a magician. When they direct you to look at one thing, that’s probably NOT what you should be looking at.
  • Posted on: 03/27/2018

    Where is the shopping opportunity with voice commerce?

    The shopping opportunity with voice is important, but minimal. A minority of people will engage with it and only order a minority of their goods -- staples like TP and allergy medicines. I’m reminded of the incredible GroupOn fad -- when somehow the world convinced itself “everyone” was a discount shopper and coupon clipper and that the best way to sell all goods in the future would be with GroupOns. And, it turns out that, as always, there’s a minority of people who are coupon clippers and they order some goods through GroupOn. Important, but minimal. Manufacturers need to stay focused on their future. A TP maker? Yes. Stay aware of what’s going on with voice. A drill manufacturer? There are far better options for creating profit with your time.

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