Doug Zarkin: Leading Brand Transformation with Strategic Planning and Execution

Doug Zarkin

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A successful franchise is built on a strong relationship between the franchisor and the franchisees. For successful delegation and communication within the franchise relationship, leadership plays a vital role. Franchise leadership states down from the top or engages franchisees to share ideas and work closely through franchise advisory councils and other feedback tools.

An example of such prime franchise leadership is portrayed by Doug Zarkin (Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Pearle Vision). Doug’s contribution to the growth and development of the company has taken Pearle Vision to the greater heights of success. After completing his BBA in Marketing, he received an academic fellowship to attend American University for pursuing his MBA. He returned to New York and began his career in advertising where he was an integral part of leading diverse product lines in the CPG, retail, and entertainment space.

As the Vice President of Business Development and Client Services within the Grey Global Group network, he launched a new partner company—G-WHiZ! Entertainment with a focus on global youth, entertainment and leisure marketing—where he led assignments from several renowned companies. Doug further joined several other organizations where he spearheaded areas such as strategic planning, marketing, creative services, and others. In 2012, Doug joined EssilorLuxottica as the VP and Chief Marketing Officer for Pearle Vision where he is currently responsible for their global optical franchise business. Doug’s work leading to the transformation of the brand has helped the company propel it atop several accolades while solidifying its rank. Moreover, his work is currently the subject of a Harvard Business School case study on brand rejuvenation. 

During a recent conversation with Mirror Review, Doug highlighted his leadership tactics while briefing about the company’s services along with its future plans. Following are the snippets from the intriguing conversation.

Can you please walk us through the establishment of Pearle Vision? What are the various services and solutions provided by the company?

Pearle Vision was founded in 1961 by Dr. Stanley Pearle to bring optometrists and opticians under one roof. The company continues to emphasize a convenient, holistic eye care experience by offering doctors and a retail operation in one place. Today, our mission is to provide more patients and communities with genuine eye care by partnering with optometrists, opticians and investors who share our passion. Pearle Vision has developed a proven system whose hallmarks include strong branding and a sterling reputation; low entry fees and turnkey operating systems; an established supply chain; and scalability and growth potential in a sustainable industry.

Being at the helm, what are your primary roles and responsibilities?

I am responsible for the ownership of integrated marketing, visual merchandising, product promotion, CRM and patient acquisition experience functions for Pearle Vision. I also serve as a media spokesperson for trade and consumer press outreach. I lead the design and development of the brand’s global annual national and localized marketing plan cycle. I am fortunate to have built a high-performing team where there’s a shared understanding of what we are looking to accomplish and most importantly a commitment to excellence.

Being a leader, what measures do you incorporate for maintaining motivation and productivity within the workplace? According to you, what are the essential traits necessary for franchise leaders to thrive in the industrial space?

As a leader, it is important to recognize progress, not perfection, and call out in the moment opportunities for growth and development. It is a standard that we practice both with how we work together and ensuring I, as a leader, are optimizing my performance. Even feedback with positive intent is not always easy to hear. But knowing from where it came and the commitment these folks have to me and the brand, I welcome the opportunity to grow and be a strong leader for a group of folks I truly appreciate, value and respect.

You have to have a somewhat thick skin in order to lead a franchise brand. As a leader, you must lead by listening, appreciating the passion these owners have to drive their business. However, leadership is about leading and that at times means agreeing to disagree.

Do you think franchisors and franchisees play equal roles in the success of a franchise? If yes, how? Also, how do you ensure hiring the ideal franchising candidate with the ideal qualities?

A franchise system is loaded with variables and so crafting a successful strategy from the onset must start with factoring in execution. It is also a system structure where its progress, not perfection should be celebrated. These are not employees but owners and as such, you can not demand performance. Inspiring performance is critical and celebrating the movement forward only encourages even stronger performance.

Our team of experts carefully vets the financials of a prospective franchisee and the DNA of those looking to join our brand. Our category is a care-based model. We’re not a QSR business and our approach to patient care is anything but a fast-food approach. To join Pearle Vision you must recognize that our point of difference in this highly competitive and somewhat commoditized market is routed in our commitment to care.

What are the upcoming services and solutions anticipated by Pearle Vision?

The Ignite program is designed exclusively for independent optometry practice owners and offers several unique benefits designed to help you convert your optical business. Ignite was launched with the intention of providing a strong alternative amid growing consolidation in the eye care industry. Pearle Vision’s Ignite program is designed to allow optometry practice owners to strengthen their businesses through affiliation. The conversion program can be an ideal opportunity for independent practices seeking greater structure, support, and marketing expertise.

Competitive Advantages for Pearle Vision Franchisee:

  • More time with patients with Pearle Vision’s support and supply chain programs
  • Access to some of the most popular and fashionable eyewear brands
  • Competitive pricing on eyewear and state-of-the-art exam equipment
  • Affiliation with the Pearle Vision® brand name which has more than 80% brand name recognition
  • No. 1-rated optical brand in doctor quality perception

Think Tank Note:

Doug Zarkin Quotes

Read Full Magazine: The 10 Influential Personalities in the Retail and Fashion Industry.

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