Phil Rubin

Founder, Grey Space Matters

Phil is a customer- and stakeholder-focused strategic growth leader and trusted advisor with more than 25 years’ experience driving growth for leading global brands. He is a strong advocate for stakeholder capitalism and the belief that profitable business can be a force for good.

Prior to GSM, he led Global Insights and Strategic Partnerships for Bond, a Toronto-based loyalty and customer marketing firm focused on connecting brands and people.  Phil joined Bond in February 2020 after it acquired rDialogue, the firm he founded in 2006. rDialogue, a leading independent customer loyalty firm, worked with clients including Activision, Adidas, Allergan, American Express, Boehringer Ingelheim, Brooks Brothers, Citigroup, Disney, Estee Lauder, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants (now IHG), Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Nike, Nordstrom, PGA of America, Panera, Pittsburgh Steelers, sweetgreen, UPS and Williams-Sonoma.

Recognized as an industry thought leader, Phil is a keynote speaker for events across North America, Europe and Asia. His comments have been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and numerous trade publications over the years. He is a charter Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional (CLMP) and a member of The Loyalty Academy Board of Regents.

He earned an M.B.A. with a concentration in marketing and strategy from the A. B. Freeman School at Tulane University and a B.S. in Finance from L.S.U. As a result of his non-profit work, he was nominated by the Arthur M. Blank Foundation to participate in a Babson College Executive Education program for Entrepreneurship in the Social Sector.

In addition to his passion for loyalty and technology, Phil’s experience also includes non-profit board leadership roles for global, national, regional and local organizations. Those include being a past board chair for ADL (Southeast) and a National Commissioner. He also served as Vice-Chair for Atlanta’s Beltline Partnership, supporting one of the largest urban redevelopment initiatives in the U.S., and as a member of the board and executive committee for The Weber School.

  • Posted on: 08/09/2022

    Should marketing have more control over pricing?

    Without question marketing and pricing should be working together so that each is both integrated and reflective of the overall business strategy. The majority of marketers, as the survey reflects, only impact pricing from a margin reduction standpoint, i.e., promotion. Marketing also typically includes the customer loyalty "discipline" (that may be a generous term), which when done right focuses on getting customers to prefer a brand to the point where (by definition) they are willing to pay a premium. There are myriad other reasons for marketing and pricing to be integrated but like so many other strategic decisions, leadership matters to ensure that it is done.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2022

    Dynamic pricing may be ‘stuck in the mud somewhere in the swamps of Jersey’

    Pricing strategy needs to be true to the brand and the comment by Springsteen's manager was unfortunate. Surveying tickets for the show here (in Atlanta) next February, there is NO way that < 2% of the tickets were priced above $1,000 each. That did change and perhaps that's dynamic pricing at work: there was no way that they were going to sell the show out at that price. These artist management companies and the ticket sellers should pay more attention to the yield management that's been well proven by airlines as well as understanding who their audience was -- and is now.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2022

    What will Glossier look like after a makeover with Sephora?

    No question this was a smart and totally necessary move for Glossier and a reflection of Kyle stepping up as CEO. Emily and the Glossier team and community built a great brand but it was never going to scale in its prior model. Confidence and attitude alone do not make a great business and good for Kyle for this move.
  • Posted on: 07/22/2022

    Are Millennials the reason that inflation is so high?

    This is an absurd premise for anyone who has studied economics. The U.S. has been printing money for more than a decade and it's basic math that when the money supply is growing faster than real output (GDP) there will be inflation. While there might be a minor effect of Millennials impacting velocity, this premise should be filed under "factors contributing to the ignorance of the country."
  • Posted on: 07/19/2022

    Is luxury retail’s sweet spot?

    People aren't hibernating any more and the more people with money go out and spend money, the more the luxury market will continue to show strength, even with the economic headwinds. Luxury brands actually offer stoppable stores, higher merchandising standards and better goods, with the pricing discipline to match.
  • Posted on: 07/19/2022

    Will Toys“R”Us kids help Macy’s have a very merry Christmas?

    Maybe this is a case of two "wrongs" making a "right"? Macy's, in spite of its recent success, is still a shining example of a retailer that no longer lives up to its brand. Much like Toys"R"Us. This hearkens back to Macy's successful strategy of a "shop within a shop" and if they can address and engage the right customers, this could be an opportunity to build some positive momentum in a slowing economy going into holiday. All that said, there is nothing about Macy's that impresses me and I'm at best cautiously optimistic that it's not too late.
  • Posted on: 07/18/2022

    Hasbro wants to put all our faces on action figures

    It’s so refreshing to see brands doing something innovative, smart, relevant and growth focused. It’s a physical manifestation of avatars and gaming. This is going to be huge for birthdays and holiday gifting for kids. For adults, it’s clearly something that millions of narcissists will want for themselves; for those that know them, they will see this as the perfect gift!
  • Posted on: 07/14/2022

    When did Walgreens’ associates become the contraceptive police?

    Once upon a time there was a democratic notion that separates church and state. The same should be applied to retail. This is a fundamental problem of policy, training management and leadership and should be fixed (easily). There should be signage and a top down commitment of a business in the "health" category to be respectful of what products people purchase and are prescribed. This is not only absurd but pathetic.
  • Posted on: 07/11/2022

    Whole Foods’ next CEO wants to reconnect the chain with its higher purpose

    If WFM can maintain its price perception AND revitalize the brand promise and purpose of WFM, they stand to win. The Amazon acquisition and COVID are certainly headwinds but the latter is true for all and the former provides an avenue for growth across the AMZN customer and Prime membership bases. WFM has an unrivaled number of assets to leverage and there should be fewer excuses going forward along with better performance and a better customer experience.
  • Posted on: 07/07/2022

    What does it take to build a firm foundation for business success?

    At my previous firm, we had clear values and likewise, a clear mission. But ultimately one of the key unlocks for us was shifting from making the company not just the place I'd always wanted to work at, but in addition challenging our team to do the same for themselves: to make the company the place THEY always wanted to work at. Ultimately, that means different things for different people but the keys are leadership commitment, transparency, flexibility and being direct. The ROCK framework is absolutely foundational and with the pillars above, the results are exceptional.
  • Posted on: 06/29/2022

    What worked at Target didn’t work for Mark Tritton at Bed Bath & Beyond

    There is no compelling reason, save a 20% off coupon (perhaps), to shop BB&B. There hasn't been for many years and there is likely to be none in the future.
  • Posted on: 06/28/2022

    Can in-store coffee add pep to retail sales?

    Is it the caffeine or the hospitality? Likely it's both but it is reminiscent of Neiman Marcus and its InCircle parties, which were private shopping events in the evening which included cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. The uptick in spend at those events was sizable and of course, continue to this day for good reason.
  • Posted on: 06/28/2022

    ThredUP asks consumers to boycott Shein’s pop-up shop

    There is ample research to support a growing and significant role for consumer-facing brands (including retailers) to address issues that are highly relevant to Gen Y and Gen Z. This is directly related to the idea of stakeholder capitalism and by extension, stakeholder loyalty. ThredUP is taking an aggressive position but presumably it understands its corporate mission and its customers, as well as other stakeholders. Like any initiative with the potential for upside reward, there are always risks. The risks include both doing nothing and doing something and it's a function of the authenticity of the company's values, brand positioning (including purpose, if there is one) and leadership.
  • Posted on: 06/16/2022

    Should analytics drive category planning?

    The problem of having more data than insights is getting old, especially in retail, especially in 2022. There are tools to integrate data - sales, customer, inventory and stores - but a lack of prioritization and an abundance of resistance to change for too many retailers. There is no silver bullet, whether AI alone, or even traditional analytics coming from the right brief. With all due respect to Google and its "sentient AI", winning requires the right insights, the right tools and the right human(s) to interpret, be creative and test/learn (quickly!). Further, too many merchants fail to factor in customers to merchandise planning and assortments. Understand customers, plan and allocate for them. Stores can still be a denominator, but they can't be the only one. Customers buy.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2022

    Are consumers going to take a vacation from buying things?

    While consumers spent a lot on goods during the pandemic, now they are clearly making up for the lack of experiences, and to a degree at the expense of "things." Much like before the pandemic. At the same time, it's problematic to say that all retailers are suffering or going to do so. While many broad-line and laggard retailers aren't doing as well, there are plenty that are and that goes back to which retailers are investing in distinguishing their assortments, enhancing their customer experience and modernizing their operations. The leaders will do just fine and the laggards will continue their irrelevance and ultimate demise.

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