CMO Of The Week

CMO of the Week: Pearle Vision’s Doug Zarkin

As an eyecare provider with hundreds of stores nationwide, Pearle Vision has been less affected than most retail businesses in recent months in terms of being able to keep its doors open. But as COVID-19 cases continue to resurge in many states nationwide, the brand’s commitment to trust and safety has never been greater.

As an eyecare provider with hundreds of stores nationwide, Pearle Vision has been less affected than most retail businesses in recent months in terms of being able to keep its doors open. But as COVID-19 cases continue to resurge in many states nationwide, the brand’s commitment to trust and safety has never been greater.

During the first few months of quarantine and lockdown, “We actually communicated out to our neighbors, ‘If this is a routine eye exam, please don't come in,’” said Doug Zarkin, Vice President and CMO of Luxottica’s Pearle Vision, at Brand Innovators’ Overcoming Adversity Virtual Summit on July 16, presented by Captify. Initially, service was intended for patients with eye trauma or with lost or damaged glasses, as well as frontline workers. But now, Zarkin adds, “as we start to come out the other end of the tunnel we are seeing our business rapidly grow, and faster than trend. We’re starting to see things positive again vs. a year ago.  Some of that’s pent-up demand, a part of that is going out with a compelling message. This is the time to look at the marble jar of trust that you have earned and perhaps lean into it and enable those in the neighborhood to come out and see it.” 

A nine-year veteran of Luxottica, Zarkin held several roles prior to Pearle Vision overseeing marketing for female-targeted apparel and beauty brands, including Victoria’s Secret PINK and Avon. In these five takeaways from his July 16 Fireside Chat, Zarkin talks about what all marketers can learn from working for brands where they’re not the target consumer and the importance of building a “Must” list during the COVID-19 crisis. To view Zarkin’s full Livecast interview, click the link below or visit Brand Innovators’ YouTube page.


Be consistently consistent. “The key thing in evolving a brand forward is first and foremost consistency. Being consistently consistent is one of the hardest things in any business, especially when business is good. In any business that's transactional you're really evaluated based on comp performance. And in many cases it will take 2 to 3 years to see your business rapidly grow. One year your major promotion is buy one get one free, and the next year you may see multiple sales drop, but single sales may increase.” 

Now is the time to assess your brand’s “Must” list. “If you are not consistently consistent in how you do things you’re not going to be successful. There’s a lot of things you can do, there’s fewer things you should do, and there’s even things that you need to do, and even fewer that you must do. The core to a brand is really understanding the musts. And in this time of chaos, that’s helped us survive better than most because we really understand the intellectual, emotional connection to the brand. Consumers are going back to the brands they trust.” 

Let those “Must”s help you hone in on your brand’s messaging and stay focused on rebuilding your business. “There is no right way to rebuild a business, there’s just a way. I’m looking for my team to be courageous in prioritizing what is meaningful and what isn’t. Especially as new pitches and folks come to try and get our attention, you can get distracted pretty easily and take your foot off what’s most important. I’m challenging my team to say ‘not now.’ It doesn’t mean ‘not ever’ but just ‘not now.’”

Listen to the frontlines of your brand’s business. “I think it’s a good idea for any marketer to get into the transactional side of your brand because a brand’s strategy is only as good as its ability to be flawlessly executed. In order to lead, you have to first listen. If you want to understand how well your business is doing, talk to somebody who's on the frontlines. They will give you an unbiased, unfettered perspective that may help you dovetail back to strategy.”

Don’t be afraid to work for brands whose target audience you don’t personally represent. “I happen to like businesses where I am not the end consumer because then it forces me to really listen. Brands I have worked on in the female category force you to do something that most men don’t do, which is shut up and listen.”

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