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392: Has Your Brand Been Friend Zoned? How to Tell and How to Get Out of It with Author Doug Zarkin

Doug Zarkin is an avid tennis player, retail and brand marketing expert, and author of “Moving Your Brand Out of the Friend Zone: A Modern Day Guide to Strengthening Your Brand’s Value Equation”. He went straight from undergrad at George Washington University to graduate school at American University and knew from the start that he wanted to run a business and lead a brand. After graduation, he started his career in the agency world with the Youth, Entertainment, and Lifestyle Marketing Division at Grey Advertising, where he had the opportunity to work on brands like Harry Potter, W Hotels, and Reebok. After that, he became an “Avon Lady” for a few years, then moved on to Victoria Secret and the fashion world for many years, and most recently served as the Chief Marketing Officer of Pearle Vision for EssilorLuxottica. In May 2023, he decided to step away from Pearle to pursue authorship and serve as an Executive Advisory Board member.

Doug tells us he decided to leave the front lines and write his book in order to provide a degree of mentorship to a wide audience. He is passionate about taking the complexity of marketing and making it simple and easy enough for everyone to process while empowering them to understand there is no “right” way.

In this episode, Alan and Doug discuss who the book is for, why he decided now was the time to write it, and what his writing process looked like. They also discuss many topics in the book, including what the friend zone is and why it is a bad place for your brand to be, what it means to “think human”, and Doug’s advice on reputation management for service brands.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What is the friend zone, and why do you need to get your brand out of it?
  • What is “thinking human”?
  • Reputation management for service brands dealing with bad reviews

Key Highlights: 

  • [01:30] A love for tennis and a metaphor for business
  • [03:10] The impressive lineup of brands Doug has worked on
  • [07:28] Why write a book, and why now?
  • [09:40] Who this book is for
  • [11:05] What is the friend zone, and why do you need to get your brand out of it?
  • [13:00] Evaluating where your brand falls on the Trust and Passion chart
  • [14:10] What is thinking human?
  • [18:05] Reputation management for service brands
  • [20:30] Dealing with bad reviews
  • [22:15] There is not a right way or a wrong way. There is your way.
  • [24:30] Lessons learned from a bad boss
  • [25:50] Stop worrying about being perfect and start worrying about getting better.
  • [26:40] TikTok and IG are hitting maturity, and TV is evolving.
  • [28:25] Learning leadership
  • [29:40] Data (alone) does not make decisions for modern-day marketers.

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