PROFILE

Phil Rubin

CEO, rDialogue

Phil is CEO of rDialogue, an Atlanta-based customer marketing firm with clients ranging from mid-market to Fortune 100 and in industries including retail, travel and hospitality, telecommunications, dining, financial services and pharmaceuticals. Representative clients include Caribou Coffee, Cracker Barrel, Kimpton Hotels and Sprint, as well as a number of clients that can’t be named like a world famous customer-centric department store.

He has nearly 20 years of strategic marketing experience with an emphasis on customer loyalty and relationship marketing, integrated communications, partnership development, promotions and program development. He founded the loyalty practice at Loyaltyworks and led the spin-off of the practice to rDialogue. Prior to Loyaltyworks he was Group Vice President and General Manager of The Lacek Group, a loyalty marketing firm now part of OgilvyOne. While at Lacek he established the Atlanta office and was responsible for leading the development and implementation of relationship marketing strategies on behalf of clients such as Delta Air Lines, Cox Communications and UPS.

Phil has developed and managed loyalty and relationship marketing as a client both at Midway Airlines and at GTE Wireless (now Verizon). He began his career going through Macy’s Executive Training Program and working in store management.

Phil has an M.B.A. with a concentration in Marketing and Strategy from Tulane University and a B.S. in finance from L.S.U.

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  • Posted on: 03/23/2020

    Which retail businesses are ‘essential’ during the coronavirus outbreak?

    Beyond the question of being essential, when is a retailer such as GameStop's decision to stay open dangerous? There is also a big difference between in-store shopping (essential for grocery, drug and c-stores) and curbside-pickup or delivery, which might be the appropriate vehicle (no pun intended) for non-essential stores to allow them to remain in business and further employ delivery people and shipping companies. At the risk of sounding political (feel free to infer :) ), when the Federal government fails to exhibit the proper leadership or guidance, we have to allow local government to play its role. While that's not exactly a level landscape and is unfortunate given some states' failure to properly respond (Florida), local and state officials that are elected to lead and govern should be allowed to do just that.
  • Posted on: 03/23/2020

    Costco is refusing returns on hoarded items

    While I agree with everyone here -- the better strategy for Costco would have been to limit hoarding in the first place. This is among the loyalty lessons merchants and other businesses will have to learn from this crisis, and that is to take care of your most valuable customers first. That includes metering what they can and should buy so that high value customers aren't suffering from hoarding and consequent stock-outs.
  • Posted on: 02/24/2020

    IKEA tests the value of time as a sales incentive

    IKEA has the right idea - as we've said for three years now, "time is the new loyalty currency" - but the dimension of time is much more than getting to the store. It's the time in the store, the time wasted with irrelevant aspects of the customer experience, the time to check out, check order status, wait for deliveries or (especially for IKEA) assembly, and more. For a brand wanting to be a loyalty leader, time is a reflection and a function of being loyal to customers even before they are loyal to the brand. Thus it's more holistic than simply time in transit. A very good start in terms of thinking but there is much farther to go. The question is how long it will take IKEA to get there :)!
  • Posted on: 02/18/2020

    Walmart’s Christmas wasn’t humbug, but it was less merry than expected

    While there are all kinds of issues, both real, perceived and potentially real, WMT's performance was definitely solid all things considered. However, from my perspective, the "miss" was attributed to one factor, as Paula Rosenblum appropriately suggests: Amazon. I'd go a bit further than her cogent assessment suggesting that shopping at Amazon is still better than going to most brick-and-mortar stores, including WMT. Given the value of time and the opportunity cost of sitting in traffic and dealing with holiday check-out lines, it's not hard to understand why Amazon's record quarter came, at least to a degree, at WMT's expense. Amazon has changed the game in fundamental ways and has built a lead that still leaves competitors like WMT and TGT following, along with most other breadline merchants.
  • Posted on: 01/08/2020

    Can casinos save the mall?

    Such is the desperate state of retail landlords and perhaps their tenants too, to the extent that they support this strategy. Casinos are in business to take their customers' money. Period. That is their business model and the odds are dead set against their customers, by definition. How is this good for a retail tenant that needs that money too? Las Vegas was built around and for gambling and part of its strategy in attracting visitors is offering retail in the same way it offers entertainment. The original Macy's, 35+ years ago, was among the first to recognize shopping as entertainment. While gambling is much the same, that's their only commonality. Good luck landlords and retail tenants who are sharing real estate with "anchor" casinos.
  • Posted on: 01/07/2020

    Do alcohol and shopping mix?

    Great question and discussion and I especially applaud Bob Phibbs' comment. This is not a new concept other than outside the four walls of the retailer. This is good for retailers as evidenced by what happens at the Neiman Marcus InCircle parties, which typically see sales spikes of + 30%. While there are risks, as always, happy shoppers should make happy customers. There will always be people doing stupid things, whether at a shopping center or not. This is good for business and good for customers and retailers and retail centers need all the help they can get.
  • Posted on: 01/03/2020

    Which retailer will rule in 2020?

    If you consider 2019 performance it's hard to argue against Target, Walmart and Amazon in that order. Amazon is still formidable for many things but they are showing signs of vulnerability (see this for more thoughts on Amazon. As someone who has watched and invested in primary research on Amazon's influence, it's not a surprise to see leading retailers and challengers stepping up their commitment to customers and it will increasingly pay dividends for them. I would also add Best Buy to the list as they continue to do a very good job across channels and Trader Joe's for its strategic consistency. One smaller retailer I'd also nominate is Sid Mashburn who continues to defy category trends in menswear.
  • Posted on: 01/02/2020

    California’s new privacy laws may trigger a wave

    CCPA, the California Consumer Privacy Act, is good for consumers and for retailers who are properly focused on them. For other retailers this is going to be a challenge. The fundamental premise of CCPA is to make a more explicit promise to consumers that the data they provide the retailer is in their best interest, and results in a better experience. It's also worth noting that this is, or at least should be, the reason for consumers opting in (or opting up) to a loyalty program - that it creates a mutually beneficial relationship for BOTH parties. The retailers who will suffer from CCPA are those that don't understand, value or prioritize customers. As crazy as that might sound, all you need to do is take a look at your inbox, much less consider your retail experience regardless of channel, and you'll see for yourself.
  • Posted on: 12/13/2019

    Are customers more loyal to brands or influencers?

    If your customers are more loyal to your influencers than your brand, good luck. It's another form of buying business in the most transactional ways and it's the perfect strategy to reduce your profits. You need your customers and your influencers loyal to your brand in order to succeed with any degree of sustainable profit growth; of course you can do without the latter but not without the former.
  • Posted on: 12/10/2019

    Did Aviation Gin just make lemonade from Peloton’s lemons?

    Long Aviation Gin (never heard of it before) and short Peloton. Two smart strategies, one smart execution.
  • Posted on: 12/09/2019

    Why do so many people say ‘no’ to retailer loyalty programs?

    Loyalty programs, led by loyalty marketers and CMOs, have failed to innovate after nearly four decades. There has long been a "sea of sameness" that retailers continue to exacerbate, reinforcing at least one definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. Loyalty programs are not the same as customer loyalty or customer marketing, As presented by most retailers, these programs are nothing more than expensive platforms for promotion. Even worse, marketers fail to use the data to drive more relevance for their brand beyond promotion. It's a recipe for failure and it's not surprising (the data has been showing this for years now) that consumers increasingly realize that their expectations will be unmet. There are exceptions of course but it takes customer focus, a risk tolerance that accompanies innovation, a trusted brand and leadership. That leadership usually starts at the C-level and without that, retailers will continue to largely fail at loyalty marketing in general, even more so at loyalty programs.
  • Posted on: 11/11/2019

    Did social media spook Party City’s Halloween sales?

    “We already have a larger more penetrated costume accessories business than our mainline competitors but we’ve not effectively used it as the competitive weapon that it is.” This quote says everything to me, which in our language of customer marketing and loyalty, means that they don't know or have any real relationship with their customers. Which is also why, as Nikki B aptly points out, they ran 20% off POS right BEFORE Halloween. Classic old-school retail that doesn't realize that you can't simply focus on stores, digital and merchandise without including the customer right within that mix.
  • Posted on: 11/11/2019

    Why is Trader Joe’s hiding stuffed animals in its stores?

    People need reasons to visit stores and as Georganne aptly says below, "it's the experience..."! Trader Joe's is what it is and they trade - pun intended - at least in part on the nuances of the experience as well as the signature goods they sell. As people wear out on all things Amazon, Trader Joe's is incredibly well positioned to pick up those willing to defect, especially as Amazon degrades the shopping experience at Whole Foods (which I think it is doing).
  • Posted on: 10/07/2019

    What if stores innovated like restaurants?

    Restaurants were late to invest in customer relationships and loyalty and worse than that, they adopted a commoditized approach. Much like retailers. The difference is that leading brands in the restaurant industry figured out sooner than retailers that innovation was required given the rising consumer expectations that Amazon has set and that most retailers have snoozed on. While it surprises even me to have to write that, restaurants are hungrier (pun intended), apparently, than retailers. Or they are smarter. Or more paranoid. Regardless, there is a lot of excitement happening in that category.
  • Posted on: 10/07/2019

    Best Buy makes a big bet on health tech

    It's fascinating to see brands like Best Buy address what we've all known has been coming for more than 30 years: the greying of America. Most of the major brands we work with have health and wellness as a top priority for their business so this is not surprising at all and yes, of course, there is huge growth potential for Best Buy (and others) here. Best Buy has a lot of trust and the customer relationships - in part via Reward Zone - to make this work. Great to see them focused on customers, still.

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