Connecting people with a good message is what good marketers do. Brother Doug Zarkin (George Washington, 1992) just finished up a decade plus run as Chief Marketing Officer at Pearle Vision.
On his first day of college, Brother Zarkin was on campus waiting to check into Thurston Hall his freshman dorm and had left his parents to go get a soda and a bagel and remembers coming back to where his parents were on line and his mom said that some guys from AEPi came over, saw his lacrosse stick and wanted to meet him. “I ended up meeting a couple of guys from the house and it was a G-d send for me because AEPi was such an integral part of my college experience at GW. It provided me with brotherhood but, more than just the physical sense. It grounded me in what college was and helped me mature emotionally and intellectually into the kind of person that I wanted to become. I was not one of those kids who peaked in high school. I didn’t really start to get a sense of my own personal self until I went to college and the fraternity was a huge part of that overall maturation experience.”
Brother Zarkin very quickly realized that in a fraternity setting it’s about influencing and inspiring those around you to do what you need them to do, when you need them to do it. He figured out that it is about inspiring a desire to achieving a goal. “You basically get an MBA in relationship building from being part of the fraternity. You get a sense of compromise, handling conflict and establishing a leadership voice.” He also learned what it means to be part of something when there’s nothing holding you there. Even though he could walk out of the house at any time and disaffiliate, the thing that kept him there were the people around him. “Finding that self-motivation to be a part of something that’s a little bit bigger than yourself is a great lesson I learned.”
Once he joined AEPi, Brother Zarkin became vice president of his pledge class and also philanthropy chairman. “We got to do some pretty cool stuff like raising money for the construction of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC. That was our big effort. I look at the Museum now and take pride in how I played a small role.” AEPi grounded him, gave him the freedom to be himself and gave him confidence. “When you walk on college campuses it’s pretty damn intimidating and AEPi was a home. It was home enough that I didn’t do a semester abroad because I didn’t want to leave the fraternity. I just loved everything about the fraternity, my pledge brothers and what AEPi represented.”
After graduating, Brother Zarkin received an MBA from American University. “I was the guy in the back class wearing his AEPi letters sitting with a bunch of government officials and grown-ups.” He realized that he wanted to be a part of building brands and doing that through marketing.
To Brother Zarkin, marketing is the ultimate balance of arrogance and humility. “In the world of marketing and building brands, you can get into the mindset of a customer. You can motivate them to do what you want them to do and when you want them to do it. Humility comes from recognizing that if you do not listen you will never be able to lead. He wanted to run and build a business. He got some advice on his way up the ladder from the bottom so when he made it to the C-Suite roles he understood all the responsibilities and the language to motivate people.
Brother Zarkin started out in media buying and then went through the account management training program. He spent seven years at Grey Advertising, where he launched GWHiZ! the youth, entertainment and lifestyle division. He helped write the brand architecture for Harry Potter consumer products, handled Reebok’s entertainment platform, and helped launch W Hotels and the Food Network. Eventually, he made the jump over to the client side. He spent three years working for Avon and then went to Victoria’s Secret to work on their Pink brand.\
After doing marketing in the fashion world, Brother Zarkin became the chief marketing officer at Pearle Vision and found that he really enjoyed bringing brands and consumers to do good together. He found that vision acuity can be a huge issue, especially with kids. One out of four school-age kids and 40 percent of school-age Hispanic kids have an undiagnosed vision issue. “We were able to make parents aware of that, doing outreach to those markets like the U.S hispanic community, where there’s a genetic predisposition towards vision acuity issues and then bring solutions to them for care and connection. I had the chance to really do some great work for people for the brand and also really help educate people as to the need for proactive vision care in their daily regimen.” He recently completed an 11 year run as the chief marketing officer at Pearle Vision where we accumulated numerous accolades and awards including recently being named to Crain’s NY Notables in Marketing and ranked as one of the GameChangers in Franchise Marketing by Entrepreneur Magazine.
Currently, Brother Zarkin is writing a marketing and branding book which will hopefully come out in the third quarter of this year. He’s also looking for his next great opportunity. “I’ve got a little time to figure it out and the opportunity to make a difference whether that’s as a CMO, a CEO or brand president. I love what I do and I want to find an opportunity to bring that passion.”
“You have to be comfortable with the notion that data for the really good marketers doesn’t make decisions for you. You make decisions using data. The reason why is that data is only as good as the questions you ask. You have to get into your brand’s ecosystem. If you’re something that is four walls and brick and mortar, you’ve got to go work in the store. If you’re something that’s virtual or e-commerce based, you’ve got to work customer service. You’ve got to experience your brand in the wild and really understand what are the truths of your brand and what are the gaps of your brand. You’re not going to find that from a spreadsheet.”
“I’ll always be grateful to AEPi for the friendships, experiences and life lessons it taught me and I can’t wait to hopefully welcome my 13yr into the fraternity when he’s ready.”
For the good and welfare…….