How Pearle Vision is Balancing Art & Science to Understand Customers

Stanley Pearle could hardly have imagined the complex ways in which marketing and tech would transform the eye care business when he founded Pearle Vision back in 1961. Doug Zarkin, the brand’s current Chief Marketing Officer, spoke to us about the hazards and blessings brought on by tech and data as well as the need to balance art and science in the craft of marketing.

Stanley Pearle could hardly have imagined the complex ways in which marketing and tech would transform the eye care business when he founded Pearle Vision back in 1961. Doug Zarkin, the brand’s current Chief Marketing Officer, spoke to us about the hazards and blessings brought on by tech and data as well as the need to balance art and science in the craft of marketing.

Doug Zarkin at the Brand Innovators CES Summit back in January

Zarkin acknowledges that the explosion of new tech can be overwhelming at times. “I think it’s actually making the job of the marketer harder and not easier. The reason being, back before the advent of the digital ecosystem, a marketer had to build their brand based on understanding consumer insights, which meant getting out of the boardroom and watching consumers interact. Listening in order to lead.”

That tension is nothing new, Zarkin says. “Balancing the art and science of marketing is an exercise that marketers have been dealing with since there were four television networks and you had a choice of buying one of the four or a couple newspapers or even one or two magazines.”

Doug Zarkin at the Brand Innovators CES Summit back in January Zarkin acknowledges that the explosion of new tech can be overwhelming at times. “I think it’s actually making the job of the marketer harder and not easier. The reason being, back before the advent of the digital ecosystem, a marketer had to build their brand based on understanding consumer insights, which meant getting out of the boardroom and watching consumers interact. Listening in order to lead.”

Pearle Vision’s philosophy, according to Zarkin, is rooted in the understanding that a consumer makes an emotional decision before they make a rational choice. “For us, understanding that emotional decision-making process is where the art comes in. The science comes in with the tools that we use to put that message out there and connect with consumers.”

Zarkin: “The tools are only as good as the plan you have to use them”

Zarkin praises the value data can bring but cautions marketers to use that data as a beginning and not an end. “Digital has put marketers in a position where some are actually just waiting for the data to come and tell them what to do and that is a recipe for disaster. The tools are only as good as the plan you have to use them. And that plan has to be rooted in understanding what a consumer thinks, what a consumer feels, so that you can build solutions using that tech to reach them at all points of contact.”

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