101 Great Minds on
Music, Brands and Behavior


Doug Zarkin

Omni Channel Chief Marketing & Brand Officer at Pearle Vision


“The “in” of “innovation” stands for insight’. You would be a fool not to appreciate the power of audio /sonic in your marketing today. Recognise that you will always be chasing innovation from areas such as this, but chase it with a plan, driven from an insight.”


 Doug Zarkin, Omni Channel Chief Marketing & Brand Officer, Pearle Vision


Recognized as a global strategic retail and brand marketing expert, Doug Zarkin has led the transformation of Pearle Vision’s (A division of Luxottica) global strategic marketing, digital platform, visual merchandising, product promotion, and retail footprint. During the course of his career, Doug has earned an impressive array of honors for his marketing and brand building work including; ANA Genius Award, Brandweek’s Constellation Award, a Silver Clio Award and multiple Effie Awards. Doug was recently named a Retail Innovator Award Winner and was recognized by his peers as Top 40 Over 40 and Innovative Marketer of The Year by The CMO Club. He’s previously been named “Marketer of the Next Generation” by Brandweek.
His public presence includes appearances on all of the major broadcast networks and business publications and frequently lecturers on the subject of brand marketing at many top universities, such as Harvard, NYU, Duke, Cornell, Xavier, The George Washington University, Miami of Ohio, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His work at Pearle Vision is currently the subject of a Harvard Business School case study on brand rejuvenation.

Reese: Tell me about your role at Pearle Vision.

Doug Zarkin:
I am the Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Pearle Vision, responsible for all consumer-facing activities relating to the brand; all advertising, customer relationships, marketing, our entire digital platform and our product promotion strategy. Anything that seeks to connect the brand and attract new and retain existing consumers falls under my purview.

Reese: How important is voice, music and sound in branding in your experience?

In a cluttered media marketplace the opportunity to break through and resonate is something that all marketers are looking for. A brand like Pearle Vision was looking to romance our story and make an emotional connection. Pearle has an iconic jingle – ‘nobody cares for eyes more than Pearle’ – actually I wouldn’t even call it a jingle, I would call it an audio mnemonic that I brought back in 2015 from the early eighties and 90’s.. It elicits nostalgia for what we stood for then and what we stand for…genuine eye care. The integration and modernization of that audio has been an incredibly important branding signal. We’re now working with an organisation to help us create the right environmental tracks for a four-walled experience. An eye exam and finding that perfect pair can take anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour so creating the right atmosphere is incredibly important.

Reese: Talk a little bit about how you revived that process?

Doug: As part of my on-boarding with the business I wanted to take a couple steps backwards to our heyday in the eighties and 90’s before charting the course forward. In looking at the asset pool of what our prime target audience (GenX-ers) remember, one of the things was the iconic Pearle audio mnemonic. I felt strongly that it was a way to speak to our heritage as a market leader without overdoing it. A jingle can bring back a vivid memory for somebody so I was pretty aggressive in my desire to bring it back. We’ve kept the integrity of the audio intact but we’ve modernised it. We use different instrumentation and we use different pacing. You don’t have to create something from scratch in order to create something new. We had this set of notes and we’ve put a modern take on it.

Reese: Can you expand on the way you’re working with a company to create your point of sale environment?

We’ve provided them with a really good diagnostic on who our target audience is, both demographically and psycho-graphically. We’ve given them certain keywords and cues that we want the patient in our Eye Care Center to understand and appreciate about our brand. They look to match up a mixture of music and genres to help create that environment. It’s absolutely an art not a science.

Reese: In terms of voice, does Pearle Vision have its own voice?

Doug: Our brand really focuses on an archetype that we call the ‘chief health officer’; female, head of household, making the health and wellness decisions. The right voiceover and audio can create depth, frivolity and passion. Also, a big part of our brand is local radio because these are voices that connect with consumers at neighbourhood level. There isn’t a single voice for Pearle Vision that we use because frankly there isn’t a single consumer that we go after.

Reese: What would you advise fellow CMO’s if they are unnerved by the growth of sonic?

The first thing I would say is take a deep breath. Don’t operate your marketing platform on FOMO a fear of missing out. I don’t ascribe to the belief that you have to have a single environment strategy. Consumers are not living in the world of Alexa for example, nor are they living in just the audio world. They are exposed to multiple degrees of stimulus. Those that are driving themselves crazy trying to figure out what their audio positioning is first must ask themselves what the Alexa or Google platforms are delivering today or possibly tomorrow for your business? There’s this unnecessary panic that you have to have one. No, you don’t at least not yet. 

“As you approach opportunities like sonic and audio, recognise that its power lies in its ability to help accentuate the emotional connection required to help drive that emotional decision in your favour.”

Reese: So what do you see when you look at the future of sonic?

We’re evolving into a more hands-free access climate for almost everything digitally. If I sold consumables I would want to have a strategy where somebody could say, ‘Google or Alexa order me X’. [But the way, my Alexa has just kicked on as I said this!] But it shouldn’t be a one dimensional aspect of your marketing plan. So my answer is to say that you would be a fool not to understand the power of sonic in your marketing today but recognise that you will always be chasing innovation but chase it with a plan, driven by an insight.

Reese: Is there anything else you want to say before we wrap up?

Yes, and it’s a statement that has helped guide the evolution of Pearle Vision. It’s this: people make emotional decisions before they make rational choices. A consumer is going to emotionally decide to trust you. They are going to trust you with their money and in our case trust you with their eye care before they make a rational choice to visit you. As you approach opportunities like sonic and audio, recognise that its power lies in its ability to help accentuate the emotional connection required to help drive that emotional decision in your favour.

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