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: 04/15/2019

    Autonomous vehicles take test drives around distribution centers

    This is a potentially smart use of autonomous vehicles. What we know from real world testing is that the open road (or crowded urban street) is far too complex for an autonomous vehicle to negotiate. What strikes me is that all of the discussion should have started at a place like this — not on the open road. But this is the new tech approach: Sell something out of sci-fi to the general public which is impossible but creates hype. Then fall back onto the true limitations of the tech’s reality only after it’s clear to the world how wrong you were. Just think of how many things have done this. IoT, Segway, Google Glass, Autonomous Vehicles, VR, 3-D TV, internet connected dishwashers (and fridges)... It takes a powerful skepticism to find truth in today’s over-invested tech landscape. Not cynicism — but skeptical sight which demands answers to important questions and won’t jump on bandwagons.
  • Posted on: 04/12/2019

    Should retail rivals see Amazon’s $15 minimum wage and raise it $1?

    Yes, this is about PR. It’s always about PR with Amazon. We see this truth further revealed in the silliness Amazon released about third-party sellers. Now that investor-funded losses have bought the loyalty of third-party sellers, Amazon wants those sellers to help protect against a government mandated breakup. My advice to Amazon's rivals is just to go about your business. Amazon loves to try to manipulate the world — and has been able to do that with press releases. But would a $15.50 per hour minimum at Walmart be a good response? Never. Amazon has won the “we have been lousy and are trying to be better” sweepstakes. Walmart (and the rest) should just sit back and let Amazon spin themselves into a train wreck.
  • Posted on: 04/12/2019

    Why consumers are breaking bonds with their favorite brands

    Consumers have always been brand promiscuous. Stores they were loyal to were often for accidental reasons like geography (closest to them) and not for the over-hyped loyalty theories we’ve been fed. I didn't agree with the reasoning here, or the ending theory about digital natives being Gillette’s problem (rather than how Dollar Shave bought customers away from them by subsidizing threateningly low prices). Here’s my blog post laying out the seamier truth about Dollar Shave. Information about other stores and brand is more easily available now and that is a threat. But to suggest it’s why the mentioned brands are suffering is to miss the true economic reasons. Department stores lost most of their departments to warehouse and specialty — to be left as a skeleton of clothing. (I bought my first fly rod in 1971 at J.C. Penney. Wouldn’t even think of doing that today.)
  • Posted on: 04/11/2019

    What does it take to produce promos that pop?

    Retail suffers from living in a bifurcated world — torn between “promotion” and “brand.” But there are far more options. Retailers only rarely discover that one of those options is product. When well communicated product brings new and returning shoppers into stores at very high rates and drives high profitability — without caving to lower price or brand destructive practices. Retailers need to develop more imagination around product. And need to remember what Sergio Zyman observed, that price is motivating only when there’s nothing more motivating -- like the product. Today’s promotions disease comes because retailers have ceased to believe they offer anything else of value.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2019

    Amazon Go doesn’t want to leave cash on the table

    Even though the futurists have told us “cashless is the future,” we know they haven’t been accurate very often. So this really isn’t a surprise. And it gives us more evidence that Amazon is becoming serious about finally becoming profitable on their 50 percent of revenue that is retail.
  • Posted on: 04/11/2019

    Will more consumers listen now that Macy’s has a new STORY to tell?

    Any time retail management gets so incredibly literal about executing what retail futurists tell them is important, I become concerned. That concern is heightened the more I chuckle at the silly naming used for employees around STORY. Still, if I pull back to a very high level and squint, there may be value to Macy’s in having 1,500 square feet of space in each store constantly revolving. It can give a freshness to what’s going on there. However, they will have to fight against the literalness of “telling a story” at the execution level.
  • Posted on: 04/10/2019

    Will retailers see more rewards from multi-banner loyalty programs?

    When will retailers learn that loyalty programs are valuable, but shouldn’t be over-done? Experience and solid research shows that loyalty programs mostly reward shoppers for purchases they would have made anyway — except they make them at lower prices. Is this smart? Yes. But it also shows, perhaps, too much focus on loyalty and not enough on building good reasons to shop in their stores.
  • Posted on: 04/10/2019

    Will Walmart clean up with its robotic workforce?

    Moving Roombas into the store is a pretty good idea — especially maintaining the environment better without taking staff away from customers. This appears to be good use of technology - now the proof will be seen in the implementation. However, it’s good to see the focus on where tech always does best: freeing humans to interact with humans by removing the mundane, repetitive tasks. Far better than other chains which wanted to shift humans to mundane tasks by having the robots interact with the customer.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2019

    What are retailers and suppliers to do when caught between Amazon and Walmart?

    Interestingly, the AWS profits aren’t underwriting price cuts — they’re underwriting Amazons entire retail-style business which is losing money. Amazon’s profits seem to come from AWS, content, and their own products. And investors are paying for this with inexpensive money. Vendors ARE making money on Amazon. But if, as I suggest, Amazon is selling all those goods at a net loss, then Amazon is attempting to buy away business from Walmart — concerns on Walmart’s part seem valid. So Amazon is buying investor loyalty. Huh. It remains striking to me that there is not yet pressure on Amazon to report valid data so that we can actually see what’s going on. In all my digging into Amazon numbers, we have yet to see content and Amazon devices separated from their vendor supplied online market sales. That is the most critical number to know about Amazon’s business.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2019

    Will Rent the Runway become all the fashion for kids?

    Is Rent the Runway the new Groupon of retail? I think there’s a very interesting market available to Rent the Runway. I also think that market is a narrow niche — strong but narrow. As with Groupon. So is this smart? Probably a smart move for Rent the Runway, but that will depend on how rough the wear and tear is on the clothes. There are reasons this might not work out so well in reality. What I fear, though, will be the likely announcement that retailer X is redesigning their business around a Rent the Runway model niche.
  • Posted on: 04/09/2019

    Retailers and brands become best of frenemies with Amazon

    I’ve participated in a lot of discussions with brands around their offerings on Amazon. Quite often, they expand on Amazon for political reasons — not because it’s smart strategically. It works this way: The VP sales needs “good news” to tell. So when retail sales are “only” a 2 percent to 5 percent increases, they love touting a 15 percent increase on Amazon. Except, they also never add in that the 15 percent is of a very tiny number. And that misleads many of the brands on Amazon into committing there. Each brand needs to ask very hard questions about Amazon in order to avoid getting carried into a bad decision from hype and erroneous perceptions. Maybe it’s a great idea. Maybe not. But clarity in knowing the real opportunity there is most critical — and I don’t see companies with clarity about Amazon very often. Interestingly, those who do get clear also usually get skeptical.
  • Posted on: 04/08/2019

    Retailers still haven’t solved last mile challenges for fresh foods

    I have yet to understand why so much corporate investment goes into what seems like a non-starter from the beginning. The premium needed for (a) last mile while (b) hot and fresh is considerable. It works well for pizza because it’s a single food and plannable. But dinners? One of my concerns around innovation is how often we fall prey to a lot of people saying it “should” happen without really evaluating the fundamentals. Key fundamental here is that the last mile is always expensive. For brick and mortar the consumer pays that cost. Delivery seems to always demand a significant premium to be profitable which also limits it to a narrow niche except in the largest cities.
  • Posted on: 04/08/2019

    Will Alexa earbuds advance Amazon’s virtual assistant ambitions?

    Amazon will likely sell a lot of them -- especially when they bring these out with big TV ad budget and distribution in extensive non-Amazon brick and mortar. What they won’t do is radically change the voice command market. Alexa will continue to be used primarily to get the weather and change the music.
  • Posted on: 04/08/2019

    Should uniform pricing be the norm for large chains?

    It makes sense that national pricing would generally be a smart strategy. Included in our equation needs to be the costs merely executing a localized strategy — costs for data, IT, merchants, and at the store level. I am quite cautious about the Stanford study — it’s pretty shallow to just say “well, you might be able to charge more to more affluent customers.” At what cost? What complexities impede doing that? There are not “absolute” ways to determine who those customers are -- so we need to hedge the profit potential with missing most of them and alienating the accidental non-affluent who shops in those stores. There are places where clever local pricing will help. But we need to be cautious. Localized pricing is a complicated answer unlikely to deliver enough return for the complicated effort.
  • Posted on: 03/20/2019

    Is the success of Ahrendts’ Apple store more fiction than fact?

    As one who shops regularly at Apple Stores, this description sounds entirely accurate. For the past year, invasive activity by store help has increased continually — clearly they were being managed to tight metrics and strict controls were put in place. It has, in fact, seriously eroded the Apple Store environment. Perhaps the truth of the decay is imposition of a "bait & switch" very similar to content marketing. In this approach, a big broad, welcoming idea is put out — but the minute you enter the store you become prey for the sharks who want to strip you of money. (Yes, that's exaggerated. But for the purpose of making the point.) Anyone in retail who thinks customers will not sense the bait and switch is living in an unreal world. Honest treatment of customers will return better profits.

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