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Marketer of the Year

DRMA Spotlight: ‘Building Brand’ the Right Way

1 Nov, 2011 By: Thomas Haire Response


“Fundamentally, the biggest thing is for marketers to understand that they can build brand with this medium,” says Doug Garnett, founder and CEO of Portland, Ore.-based full-service agency Atomic Direct, talking about his new book “Building Brand With Direct Response Television.”Building Brand with Direct Response Television - Doug Garnett's Book

He continues, “A lot of brand agencies go off this mythology that if we paint pretty pictures of a brand, people will love it. You know what? People build a brand once they get the product in their hands. You need a product in hand to represent the brand, and putting that product there is what we do particularly well.”

Atomic Direct — a member of the Direct Response Marketing Alliance (DRMA) — has been doing that since 1998, when Garnett left then-DRTV mega-agency Tyee to set out on his own. “I’d been VP of strategy for about five years and worked with a tremendous set of corporate campaigns,” he says. “I was frustrated we weren’t getting the total value for our clients. I was trying to find a new way between what Tyee was doing, which was beautiful but often didn’t move the needle, and the ‘yell-and-sell’ stuff that was effective at moving the needle directly but not at building brands.”

Finding a middle way was nothing new to Garnett, who holds two math degrees (a B.A. from the University of Colorado and a masters from UC San Diego) and began his career in rocket science at General Dynamics, he says, working on “rockets, the Space Shuttle, cruise missiles.” But, when working through his second degree, Garnett says, “It wasn’t me. I started that career evolution and followed what my instincts and heart said.”

That led to some time in sales, before moving into the advertising world. “I took that opportunity, and it just felt right,” Garnett says. “I love the entire process of advertising: trying to figure out what makes people tick, getting to work with these innovative products.”

Some of those innovative products have turned into some of Atomic’s biggest hits in the past 13 years, including the Drill Doctor and Lowe’s store-brand tool line, Kobalt — both of which are featured in the new book. “We’ve been doing Kobalt advertising for about a year now,” he says. “It came out last year and in a very short period of time, they were out of product. The Drill Doctor infomercial campaign is one of my favorite examples because it’s such an odd match for DRTV.”Doug Garnett

However, the campaign not only sold nearly 3 million Drill Doctor drill-bit sharpeners, it also built a “brand that didn’t exist before,” Garnett says. And building brand via DRTV is the absolute key to the business’ future if you read Garnett’s book and focus on his “Six Degrees of DRTV.” He contends, “This whole book is influenced by the ‘Six Degrees,’ because I’ve carried this belief all along that we need to achieve more with DRTV. If we integrate and look beyond that one thing we tend to do with DRTV, a company can achieve two, three, four, five times the impact in the end than if they are one-dimensional.”

Garnett, who is also a member of the Response Editorial Advisory Board, sees many big opportunities for his business — and the entire direct response world — ahead. “Brand entry is going to continue to grow, especially after the recession. As brands continue to ramp their advertising back up, they’ll turn to DRTV more and more, partly because the recession trained them that measurable results from your campaign have a tremendous impact,” he says, adding that he believes Atomic Direct is positioned perfectly for such growth. “DRTV is the core of our business. If we deliver clients campaigns that work, that will pay back to us. It’s all about the quality of the work and the integrity we bring our clients to deliver what we say.”

Such experience and wisdom is on display throughout Garnett’s book, which he says brings a fresh perspective about DRTV. “We tried to be surprising in the content and have some things you wouldn’t have thought of if you come into it with misperceptions,” Garnett says. “I want people to walk away with those misperceptions gone away, and with a real solid sense of how they can use DRTV for their company.”

View the video interview here.


About the Author: Thomas Haire

Thomas Haire

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