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: 06/18/2018

    Is Amazon killing Barnes & Noble’s chances for a turnaround?

    While it’s a great place to buy books you already know about, Amazon’s weakness is that it’s a terrible place to browse for books you might enjoy reading. That’s why independents are experiencing a resurgence. They’re great places to browse -- to be surprised by finding something new and interesting. Barnes & Noble has not created a good place to browse books. And the books on their shelves are either exactly what Amazon recommendations show me (yawn) or cheap books (as opposed to good books). My term for Amazon bookstores is “Barnes & Amazon” -- which reflects the blandness of both brands.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2018

    Sam’s to open small concept focused on tech, fresh and grab-and-go foods

    I hope Sam’s is wanting only to learn from this experimental store. Walmart tried opening a small format store in our neighborhood years ago -- and it flopped. It had nothing that we expected from Walmart and appeared to be trying to be something Walmart isn’t. While experimentation is good, retailers must grow along the directions their brand allows. If Sam's hopes to suddenly undo all the brand equity they’ve built over the years as a “warehouse store” with small format stores, then they’ve got some hidden problems that should concern the market. Hopefully management knows that their road to success is to embrace what they are -- not attempt to reject it.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2018

    The question for today’s retailers: What business are you in?

    Vive la difference... But as to consumers... :-) Some of us presume that everywhere and in everything the consumer along with their needs, desires, and motivations is present. And we can't talk product without talking product in context of the consumer. But I focus on product because of the incredible level of dysfunction among retailers right now with product. Product is, to consumers, far more compelling than about anything (of course, with all the unspoken assumption about it being well made, meaningful product communicated to the consumer while dismayed in a useful way for the consumer and at a price which is a good value for the consumer. :-)
  • Posted on: 06/14/2018

    The question for today’s retailers: What business are you in?

    My sense is you miss my point. The ONLY reason there's any interest in the Apple store is because of the quality and exceptional nature of Apple products. There have been other attempts with lesser products and those stores fail. Note also that I never restrict to "only" product. Rather product MUST BE at the core of any successful retail strategy and the strategy muse emanate from a product/consumer vision. I chuckle at the cable analogy. It really is about charging. To elevate a cable above that level is to make the biggest error made in marketing.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2018

    The question for today’s retailers: What business are you in?

    Of course, the only reason a retailer exists is to sell stuff (and successful retailers don’t sell “stuff” but products that matter in a way that matters). Experience is just lovely ... Yet when I just need to get into an Apple Store for a charging cable, I do not want an “Apple Store” experience -- I want the charging cable I need. Those other times when I want to browse iPad Pros (or similar), then I might appreciate a more complete experience -- entirely focused on the product.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2018

    The question for today’s retailers: What business are you in?

    I have serious concerns about how people today take this Levitt comment. How many times have we heard the trains accused of ignoring that they were in the transportation business -- except their expansion into trucking and other transport was restricted by federal law? Retailers are in the business of connecting product and customer in such a way that customers buy them. That’s the ONLY reason retail exists. And the only reason Southwest exists? To transport people and things. Customer service can be an important difference or brand element in the way a store or airline operates. But it’s not the reason they exist.
  • Posted on: 06/13/2018

    The question for today’s retailers: What business are you in?

    So true, Neil. Too many run around today saying the product is dead while praising the incredible Apple stores ... which are only incredible BECAUSE OF product. What’s seems missing is an informed view that sees HOW product is a core part of the experience that a specific store offers. I wasn’t incredulous in the write-up, too, at the idea that there’s no distinction. Tell that to mass retailers Lowe’s, Home Depot, Menards, Best Buy, CostCo, and many more. There is no future for retail OTHER than one where product is very important. After all, retail (online or offline) only exists for one reason: to sell product.
  • Posted on: 06/11/2018

    Brands win with TV 2.0 and the new direct mail

    The shocking thing is ... that these marketers are talking as if it’s a surprise. Amazon, Google, Uber, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft all spend massively on TV to support their brands and drive immediate results. From the reports I read, I believe each is spending roughly $500M annually on traditional TV. The reason? They cannot achieve scale (mass marketing) any other way. What about TV 2.0? That probably makes the board really happy because it sounds innovative. But TV agencies have always prepped and planned for multiple ads and to get as much as possible out of campaigns. That said, constantly shifting message is NOT often as effective as people might think. The truth is that more non-target consumers see each ad (digital or TV) than target consumers. So you need to be careful not to confuse the market. All-in-all: If a retailer doesn’t have an effective TV strategy at this point they need to be finding one. But don’t just look at big ad agencies -- they tend to offer the brand advertising hammer for advertising needs. There are many clever and savvy options (like advertising innovative products to drive store traffic -- Taco Bell’s strategy) outside of traditional agency thinking.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2018

    How many e-mails are too much?

    This is an important question -- I just wouldn’t trust this study's full conclusions. As they start to “dig deeper” it looks too me like the analysts enter into the realm of assumptions and guesses -- not research. Perhaps interesting suggested theories about email but not “conclusions based on research.” I’d challenge, for example, Amazon’s best ranking for brand reputation -- that’s probably a false positive from Amazon’s ubiquitous presence, not because everyone loves them. That said, how much email is too much? Figuring that out is an art, not a science. If you’re not getting some complaints, you’re not emailing enough. If those complaints show your brand values damaged, then you’re emailing too much. A great deal of this has to do with whether the emails are useful to consumers or not. Amazon’s emails to me are worthless -- some are even worse as they are in-your-face reminders that they’re tracking my behavior. We all need to develop a good ear for what information is most useful to consumers - even if they don’t act on it today.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2018

    Mental health is a retail management issue

    Employers need to take the lead in removing the stigma of mental health in the workplace. That won’t solve everything -- the social and community pressures will continue. But if workplaces take the lead in making it clear that mental health is important for the individual and that an individuals choice to treat it can be discussed with management without penalty, then progress will be made. Additionally, employers need to ensure that benefits include good mental health coverage. NOT just a miniature plan that offers a couple of counseling sessions with a soft shoulder -- but serious treatment options that rise above what’s available in society. In fact, we have a crisis in mental health treatment facilities in the US. Insurance companies are trying to force all mental health treatment into neat little boxes -- yet if there’s an issue that doesn’t fit a neat box ... it’s mental health.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2018

    Costco workers get a raise and the retailer gets more good press

    What’s interesting about Costco is they just simply have given these raises - with this only being the most recent. Management practice tends to be to want to manipulate people into “working harder” with raises -- making them bonuses, offering incentives, etc. So let me offer this intriguing and provocative article by Stephen Shapiro from Inc that appeared today. He suggests that the harder we push toward a specific goal, the less likely we are to make it. And includes research into motivation that shows when people are challenged intellectually and creatively they achieve goals better than when they are offered a reward for meeting them. A worthwhile read that uncovers some pretty dysfunctional management practices. “Working Hard May Not Be the Best Way to Improve Productivey and Here’s Why
  • Posted on: 06/05/2018

    Is data-driven marketing holding back storytelling?

    Data scientists should NOT be trained to become better at storytelling. We already have a massive problem that nearly any story can be created out of a pot of data. There’s also an inherent conflict between storytelling and truth. The most brilliantly popular storytellers today don’t speak truth - they speak the story that carries well. Perhaps that’s okay as a marketing creative. But a data scientist’s job is truth telling - not storytelling. The true problem this survey finds isn’t about storytelling (which, incidentally, is heavily overblown as a creative approach). The problem is that (as we’ve known in direct marketing for decades) data usually doesn’t reveal anything of big significance. Data science is finding more and more tiny things that aren’t worthy of stories - so we’re not missing anything. One Big Data project I worked on identified the highest per capita sales of our product in the smallest rural markets and the worst per capita sales in New York. Except New York was also our highest volume market. Sure glad we didn’t follow that data. (Incidentally, highest rates in low populated areas is a fallacy caused by data - not by reality. It has to do with small numbers.)
  • Posted on: 06/04/2018

    Retailers can make personalization work

    Past purchase is no indication of future interest. I’ve written about this in this blog post about how data and machine learning tell us less than we think. Where the idea goes wrong is with this sentence: “The most successful companies understand that personalization is at its core a data problem.” Data only reveals a very small portion about us. Something that lives up to the idea of “personal” is based on far more than what’s available in the data. Only when we realize this can we pull back from pestering consumers with ads for things they’ve already bought.
  • Posted on: 06/04/2018

    Does it pay for retailers to price-match their own websites?

    It’s funny to me that this is even a question. Whatever we want to call the idea of selling across all channels, if a store wants its brand to remain vital for the long run, consumers need to trust that they’ll get the right deal regardless of where they buy. To be honest I don’t even think there’s any losing money in the short term -- because what’s never calculated in the short term is how many people walked away from a purchase because they were disgusted with pricing policies. Rather, the issue is profit that appears clear in a spreadsheet model with an extra few percentage points in price vs. profit that’s true in reality yet very hard to model in a spreadsheet.
  • Posted on: 06/04/2018

    Can department stores be reinvented with a pop-up approach?

    This isn’t a reinvention of the department store, it’s Sharper Image expanded to other kinds of products. What’s missing from the model seems to be having gone to consumers to sort out the question: “What DOES a department store provide?” If we jettison all the department store ideas assuming they are merely to create a venture-ready pitch, what’s left? It’s a store where people can rent space for their products -- like the antique store in my neighborhood? I hope it works right for them. It sure sounds like they have a lot of learning ahead of them about what won’t work. And it would be a nice incentivizing addition to a mall.

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