Pearle Vision CMO on why marketing is about 'the art of sacrifice’
Pearle Vision was founded in 1961 in Savannah, Georgia by Dr. Stanley Pearle, with the intent of putting patient care above everything else. But as the brand grew into a retail giant, it lost its way, attempting to win customers by touting discount deals on glasses at its 500 locations. The result was Pearle lost its differentiation in the optical market as people saw it as just another big-box chain.
“Trying to be everything to everyone means you are nothing to nobody and that is exactly what we had become at Pearle,” Doug Zarkin, Pearle’s chief marketing officer said during a presentation at this week’s Association of National Advertisers “Masters of Marketing” conference in Orlando. “Marketing is about positioning, positioning is about the art of sacrifice,” he added, meaning that brands that try to do too much often fail. (He elaborated on the strategy in an interview with Ad Age (above) in which he also describes why Pearle is not afraid of upstart brands like Warby Parker.)
In his ANA presentation, Zarkin described how beginning in 2014, Pearl got back to its roots, putting the focus on eyecare with marketing that leaned into the brand’s classic tagline, “nobody cares for eyes more than Pearle.” The strategy was encapsulated in an ad called “Ben’s Glasses,” which tells the story of a boy who struggles to see wearing oversized glasses. It turns out the reason he is hooked on the specs is that they belonged to his grandpa. But the conundrum is solved after a visit to Pearle, where a technician simply takes the lenses out so the boy can see clearly again. The spot, by Energy BBDO, went on to win a Clio award in 2017.
Pearle also put an emphasis on local marketing, spreading its message at health fairs, expos and at schools.
The approach was sparked by research in which Pearle surveyed its patients and franchisees who had abandoned the brand. “When you talk to people who fire you they give you a real honest assessment of how you let them down,” Zarkin said. The most important insight gleaned is the concept that comprehensive eye exams go beyond vision correction, catching other health complications like diabetes and even cancer.
The strategy worked, with Pearle posting 5 consecutive years of more than 5% growth in its eye exam business, Zarkin said.