How Pearle Vision avoided the 'friend zone'

'You don't want to be in the friend zone when you're a brand,' says CMO Doug Zarkin.

As an eyewear brand, Pearle Vision had struggled to stand out amongst a widening field of competitors -- but CMO Doug Zarkin had a plan that would highlight the brand’s strengths.

"This business had five different brand propositions in eight years. We were stuck in the friend zone," he said, speaking at the ANA’s Masters of Marketing event in Orlando.

"And for those of you that are single or dating you know, that’s the equivalent of going on a date and getting, 'what did you think of him or her?' ‘Oh, they’re nice.’ 

"So how are we going to get ourselves out of the friend zone? How are we going to move from the middle to somewhere that’s going to allow us to have a point of differentiation?"

According to Zarkin, the answer was independent franchisees, mainly neighborhood doctors. 

People tended to trust them more than big-box chains, so a campaign was launched which included ending buy one get one deals and other promotional talk which only served to cheapen the brand in consumers' eyes, as well as focusing on marketing featuring local doctors whom people tend to trust. 

"We explained to the doctors that they could actually sell less and make more -- without cheapening your services," Zarkin said.

Pearle Vision also had a little unexpected help from its competitors, Zarkin explained.

"What’s exciting about what’s happening in the eyewear category is that it has become fashionable, so brands like Warby Parker have shown consumers that you don’t have to sacrifice fashion for function."

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