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: 08/14/2019

    Will Kohl’s shoppers like the ‘emerging brands’ chosen by Facebook users?

    I’m quite torn on this. On the one hand, consumers like to have interesting new product options added to their shopping experience. They increase store satisfaction and shopping cart size - even for those who don’t buy them. So this part is excellent. I don’t like the gimmickry used with Facebook. We already know that relying on online popularity isn’t a good way to curate - people curate far better. Even more, the arrogance of “this is what young people want” is pretty awful. Many Millennials and Gen Zers really find these efforts offensive. Kudos to Kohl’s for understanding the importance of innovative products in their mix - more retailers should be doing this. But executing it with this silliness seems to remove most of the good which can come from it - let’s hope no one else copies this idea.
  • Posted on: 08/12/2019

    Does North Face’s new concept point the chain in the right direction?

    This seems like a poorly considered strategy. First, from what is described and from what I can see they are “Orvis”ing The North Face stores. I’ve written how, as an avid fly fisherman, I’ve never bought anything in an Orvis store. So there is a danger here that The North Face will alienate their passionate customers. Second, a “museum” is not an experience — or at least not one likely to create that sense of the outdoors created by the climbing wall at REI. Retailers need to take care not to merely create experiences “because they should” (as many would tell them) but because what they do increases sales. For that reason, I’d recommend not following The North Face's store changes — it seems like a poor example.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2019

    Has the starting point of customer journeys moved?

    There's tremendous truth in what Nikki observes. As Mark Ritson recently noted, if you're a diaper maker you must market to potential customers (including future grandparents) BEFORE the trigger of approaching childbirth. Otherwise, your brand won't have the mental availability to be purchased. That said, I'm not a fan of values as the basis for this. Brands are known by the products which fall within the brand. And brand is built most strongly through powerful consumer interaction with specific products. A brand needs mental availability when the specific customer path occurs (trigger or not) and that only happens by relying on your products for building those mental brand paths.
  • Posted on: 08/06/2019

    Will outsourcing jobs help Lowe’s associates better serve customers in stores?

    I am enjoying the degree of disagreement here. If the disagreement is about Craftsman brand strength -- let me recommend a Google Trends search on “Craftsman Tools.” Since 2004 there has been a continual decline for the brand. This is also what I’ve heard in consumer research. The clutter and harm done to the brand by Sears over the years puts it in a tough position. My summation is it’s a brand that many of us remember fondly from the 1990s (its peak strength years) and before. But today it no longer carries that strength.
  • Posted on: 08/06/2019

    Can an e-tail startup establish a physical presence using hi-tech vending units?

    The advantages digital brands get from a physical presence are legion — among the big ones are that customers get to touch and handle product, store help to guide and answer questions, AND the constant reminder of physical presence. Hi-tech vending machines offer a physical presence and opportunity to buy. So they cannot replace the values of a retail presence. There will be some limited ways they succeed — and perhaps Sock Spot will be it. But rather than introducing people to their wares (I need to touch/feel socks to judge their quality) they will be a quick purchase opportunity for those who already know the brand. I’m not impressed. But it will work in a few cases.
  • Posted on: 08/05/2019

    Does Etsy need free shipping?

    Note what isn't discussed here: Profitability. Have we forgotten that it's the obligation of companies to care about profitability? I don't have clients with firsthand Etsy experience, but this seems like Etsy going out of its way to make investors happy at the expense of sellers on their site. And that's the wrong way to look at it. A company like Etsy can only have a strong relationship with investors by having a strong relationships with sellers. All other investor "wins" are purely short term. The entire market needs to reset: Free shipping is not a viable solution in most cases and it creates far less economic and consumer power than companies are told.
  • Posted on: 08/05/2019

    Will outsourcing jobs help Lowe’s associates better serve customers in stores?

    This appears to be a smart choice — Lowe's isn't offering any less to their customers but are gaining flexibility by using outsourced option for these secondary services. I think it's still too early to evaluate Marvin Ellison's leadership — but has made many good moves. Unfortunately, I believe his tenure will also be hurt by the Lowe's shift to Craftsman which started well before he took the reins. It is one of those moves where a paper argument showing incredible strength could be made — yet it weakens Lowe's, whose Kobalt brand had been known for increasing quality. The switch from an exclusive brand developing powerful strength to an old tired brand shared with second rate retailers was a poor choice. Retailers need to be far more careful to avoid old perceptions of brand and look more carefully at the reality today.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2019

    Gen Z gets creative online

    I don’t believe this offers a tremendous opportunity — let’s not get carried away with self perception of creativity. After all, the mere word “creative” can mean far too many things. And my experience is that many executives project their own hope for creativity onto a word like this and end up not really hearing what is being said. In part, most true creativity comes offline. So any Gen Z perception of creativity happens via narrowly restricted tools — making it not really “creativity.” All this said, it does make sense to pay a bit of attention for advertising and merchandising purposes. There are opportunities to work with this self perception to make your retail brand stand out.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2019

    Amazon kills its Dash button – what comes next?

    Dash proved to Amazon that they can dominate the headlines without doing anything serious. Or at least they have always been able to do that — perhaps it will change in the future. This is a serious problem for the retail economy. Amazon does important things and has built some tremendous strengths. And, they’re just a company – with as many foibles as they have strengths. What retailers should learn from Dash is to focus on their specific retail strengths (online, offline) and ignore Amazon’s PR.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2019

    Will its ‘best of’ designer sale trigger a massive run on Target?

    It’s brilliant that Target is reminding us of what they’ve done so well. Why do so many retailers start successful programs but, after an initial push, never tell their market about them? Customers do not clearly remember what a retailer does. It’s critical to remind them with communication and in-store promotions. Of course, this is also likely to be a productive sale for Target. More retailers should follow their example of doing something unique and telling customers they’re doing it.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2019

    CPG companies spending more to use less packaging

    This is a serious issue — and in my household we’ve become keenly aware of the overwhelming amount of plastic we receive. (My wife has a piece of art touring the West Coast made from fabric she created with single use plastic bags.) What makes any change exceptionally hard are the trade-offs and continued consumer habits. Single serving packaging? One of the worst offenders. Yet if I buy a 12-pack of single-serve hummus, we eat all the hummus. If I buy a single 12-ounce container, we typically eat only half. That said, CPG should focus on the places where convenience for the consumer comes together with minimal packaging OR highly recyclable packaging. Those packages exist but are hard to find. Re-usable? It will take a few decades to build habit and infrastructure to take this route — it’s not a short term success.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2019

    Should Simon Property Group bail out (invest in) more retail tenants?

    There are a lot of things to recommend about this idea — not least that investment from landlords would focus on making the retailer productive in order to maintain rents. There are also huge risks. While Simon may have tremendous experience with retailers and evaluating risks associated with mall leases (including percentage of sales deals), evaluating a retailer for investment is a very different beast. I’m cautiously optimistic about this approach, but keenly aware of the risk for Simon.
  • Posted on: 07/31/2019

    Are store robots cute, creepy – or nearly useless?

    If robots are going to be useful in the store, then they need to be designed to look like they’re useful. So far, it appears that given resistance, stores decide that cartoon characters are the best option. Except they aren’t. Am I going to trust my serious shopping to a clown? I’m reminded of a case where we worked with consumers around a water purifier for coffee makers. A clever agency decided it should be made in the shape of a cartoon fish. What was clear from consumers was that they didn’t believe it was useful — because it looked like a cartoon. (Removing impurities from water is scientific — not a cartoon action.) Stores need to take a lesson from this and make robot forms imply their function — assuming there really is a valuable role for them to play. (And on that I’m skeptical.)
  • Posted on: 07/31/2019

    Kroger to make customers pay for cash-back debit card payments

    This is a mistake — not because it’s not a good idea, but because Kroger has already trained customers to expect that cash back is a free service offered by Kroger. It’s far less damaging to never have offered the service than to take it away from customers. It’s not a catastrophic mistake — it probably won’t be noticed in the bottom line. In fact, I’ll suggest that the added profit from this will be negligible — once they account for cashier time explaining the change and the added costs around processing the fees. This last point is what retailers need to care about: Is there enough money to be made to justify the risk to the brand? In this case, I don’t think so.
  • Posted on: 07/30/2019

    Can deepfake technology reduce retail returns without rattling reality?

    My response to application of this tech in retail is similar to all the other VR technologies: There’s little reality in virtual reality. The absolute minimum killer truth for the VR and deepfake promoters is they ignore that computer color is NEVER real color — it’s backlit, lacks dimension, and will never be able to be used to give a real sense of color in the real world. So, we won’t ever be able to paint rooms in VR to try color, try clothes on our avatar to judge color, judge furniture fabric, sense whether fruit meets our standards, etc. They are impossibilities. My biggest fear is that marketers will invest too heavily in what’s a novelty and not a powerful shopping tool. The novelty might be worth it (perhaps like the VR in a Lego store), but it simply can’t deliver what tech offered and stores want to promise.

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