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: 07/27/2020

    Are boycotts becoming bigger risks?

    Brand trust matters more than ever, even as business is less trusted though not as distrusted as government. Compound that with a hyper-emotional world that started with political divisiveness, then add in the pandemic and the catalyzing murder of George Floyd and you have all the ingredients for this perfect storm. Which is also an opportunity for brands who recognize the reality of the cliche "we're all in this together." Jamie Dimon and the Conference Board were right in recasting the purpose of a business a year ago and now we're all catching on and catching up. As long as people believe that we're all in this together and frustrated at what governments and businesses are and are not doing, this is not going to change.
  • Posted on: 07/27/2020

    Retailers need to reorganize like a 21st century business

    There is only one way for retailers to be organized and -- in a majority of situations -- reorganized, and that is around the customer. Full stop, and now more than ever. As others aptly point out, this is not a new idea but sadly, it's new for way too many retailers. And for some, it's too late, whether they realize it (e.g., Ascena, Stage Stores) or not (JCP, Macy's and others). For any retail leader who disputes this, please read "Day One" from Amazon.
  • Posted on: 07/24/2020

    Has retail permanently downsized?

    There is probably zero chance of retail employment returning to pre-pandemic levels. The US has been over-stored for years and there has been too much capital propping up irrelevant retailers that had no business surviving. It's exacerbated by the giants and their evolution into truly mass merchants that are seemingly unstoppable; and e-commerce of course. Maybe we end up in a bar-bell scenario where there are the mega merchants and -- one can hope -- small ones that are local/glocal? Sadly, the retail industry no longer needs brands like Sears and Kmart, JCP, Stage Stores and some or all of the Ascena brands. Then consider the future of Macy's, Neiman Marcus and even Nordstrom, all of which are too large, at least in terms of doors. I'd love to be wrong about this but the longer we are in pandemic-mode, not to mention recession/depression, the more likely the damage is permanent. Just because the industry is smaller doesn't necessarily mean it will be harder to recruit. It could turn out to be just the opposite, where the talent levels actually go up, which could only be good for the industry.
  • Posted on: 07/23/2020

    Best Buy connects strong sales to frontline worker performance

    Best Buy's results show that it's continuing to do the right things as a leading omnichannel retailer. It is benefiting from being in the right category for the times, but also for its continuing investments in delivering a better customer experience. Integral to doing so is investing in more than technology and digital acceleration, as it's doing, by investing in its employees tasked with delivering that CX in-store and in other customer-facing channels. As Bob Phibbs appropriately points out, echoing Fred Reichel who in "The Loyalty Effect" eloquently illustrated the connection between employee loyalty and customer loyalty, "Make your employees’ day, they’ll make customers’ days."
  • Posted on: 07/22/2020

    It is a different year. Walmart is closing on Thanksgiving.

    This isn't surprising given Walmart's leadership and commitment to safety, security and the well-being of its team members. As for other retailers, given how many aren't making money right now, and given the uncertainty around where we (in the US) will be with the pandemic, it's a pretty easy decision. And good for the continued shift to e-commerce. Now if only Zoom will shut down for businesses then it will really be a holiday!
  • Posted on: 07/17/2020

    Struggling retailers lay off workers and pay millions in executive bonuses

    Leadership means setting an example, not a double standard. The leaders of these companies, and their boards, are worse than tone deaf or simply guilty of bad optics, they are aggressively running their once relevant (that's gracious to J.C. Penney) businesses into the ground. Which is where they all belong. As bad as it is (was) to shop these stores, it's clearly worse to work there (except for the C-suite). And those two experiences are but one factor explaining why these brands are and should be history.
  • Posted on: 07/16/2020

    How murky has COVID-19 made retail data?

    The challenge is that pre-COVID-19 customer insights are of seriously limited value due to the disruptions of shopping habits, the formation of new ones and the new offerings and changes made by retailers and other brands. This all poses new challenges for organizations on top of what largely challenged them pre-COVID-19. On a recent blog post of ours, we shared that "In our work, we see companies with more data than actionable insights. But we also see smart clients embracing the reality that things have changed and recognizing their pre-COVID insights are increasingly irrelevant. They’ve already reset their management dashboards to gather benchmarking data and analysis to see how far they’ve fallen and what customer segments have emerged due to the 'new normal'." Count analytics and insights as just another one of the challenges that retailers face in addition to everything else!
  • Posted on: 07/15/2020

    Are subscriptions a winning strategy to get through the pandemic?

    Transactional businesses want recurring revenue and recurring revenue models want transactions. Subscriptions, like other trends accelerating these days, are compelling and will succeed but not for all categories of product or retailers. The key is ensuring the value proposition is relevant, sustains engagement and leads to transactional growth on top of it.
  • Posted on: 07/14/2020

    What will retail’s back-to-school season look like this year?

    It's hard to see this BTS season being anything other than lackluster at best in areas other than technology. And the question for technology is how much of that demand has already occurred and been met through Q2. Schools are likely to be at best hybrid in terms of virtual/in-person, unemployment is staggeringly high and there is no leadership. It's hard to see value in inventory depth other than for essentials.
  • Posted on: 07/13/2020

    Starbucks becomes latest retailer to make masks mandatory

    This might heighten the risk for confrontations, but that is SBUX's prerogative and good for them. Science and facts can continue to be a source of debate while cases and deaths mount, but every other leading country in the world has done better than the US in terms of managing the pandemic. Given our federal government's utter failure here, it's up to the states, municipalities and the private sector, including SBUX. There will continue to be confrontations but as more people adopt the common sense solution of wearing a mask, we will all be better off and closer to a world sans COVID-19.
  • Posted on: 07/08/2020

    Will Walmart’s best shoppers ditch Amazon Prime for Walmart+?

    Amazon's customer obsession, in tandem with the tenure, value proposition and integration of Prime makes it hard to see any kind of sizable migration of members to Walmart+. While Walmart has the physical footprint and is making great progress on a number of fronts - from its brand to its localization partnership with Nextdoor and its growing digital capabilities - Amazon is a truly customer-centric and data driven machine. While there's a clear Venn diagram here, the only reason this is even a discussion is the formidable lever that Amazon has with Prime. Still the law of large numbers applies, so Walmart will succeed here regardless. As will Amazon. This is not good for Target and others, however.
  • Posted on: 07/07/2020

    Has the pandemic changed shopping behaviors forever?

    There is no doubt that consumer shopping behaviors have changed and whether it is for the "long-term" depends on how that is defined. The extent of how lives have been disrupted, lost and impacted is not short-term, as much as some people want/hope that to be the case. So if you define long-term as in the next 3-5 years, it's hard to see there being no residual impact, especially with the social unrest on the heels of the pandemic ("heels" might be optimistic, as I'm writing this in Georgia). Over 5-10 years it's an entirely different question. Some of the changes that were catalyzed by COVID-19 were already underway. Some are going to be blunted in some categories due to the economic damage that will be lasting for many over the long-term.
  • Posted on: 06/26/2020

    Will a smaller Macy’s be a better Macy’s?

    As a Macy's (and its Executive Training Program) alum from back when Macy's was Macy's (public as RHM then private, pre-Campeau/pre-Federated), it's painful to see how far the chain has fallen from what it once was: the best in the business. We sold the same goods as Federated at higher prices, the merchandising set the benchmark of the day as did the assortments, including the PL brands, and the store standards. The Cellar was nearly a destination by itself as were so many other elements of the offering. The debt from the LBO led the way to all-too-frequent one-day sales, radical changes in associate compensation and ultimately becoming just like every other department store. In the 1980s it would have been unimaginable that Macy's would become part of Federated, which was its Darth Vader in those times. Even worse, the acquisition spree and assimilation of brands like Marshall Field & Co., as Georganne Bender points out, diluted anything valuable about those brands and the customer relationships they had. It was the lowest common denominator and sadly, it is even worse today. All those traffic drivers are gone and there is, as Neil Saunders aptly notes, nothing relevant about Macy's anymore. Reducing the company's size won't change that in any productive way unless they decide to be the best department store in the world again. Wouldn't that be great to see?
  • Posted on: 06/22/2020

    Is Apple being too cautious?

    The data have consistently shown that a significant majority of consumers indicate that they have safety -- i.e., health -- concerns about visiting stores. Apple has been smart to implement the protocols it has put in place, including closing its stores in areas with new spikes in cases. Apple is also one of the most valuable companies in the world, so it's easy to say, "well Apple can afford to do this" whereas other retailers can't or should not. I wrote about this over a month ago and think that retailers can have the best of both worlds by simply putting mask requirements and other sanitizing practices in place with a clear emphasis on employee and customer safety. Time will tell, but until there is widespread social acceptance -- regardless of one's own politics -- that health and safety practices are good for ALL, brands will become as polarized as citizens are and that will be to the detriment of their collective health.
  • Posted on: 06/22/2020

    Should retailers boycott Facebook?

    Brands increasingly have to recognize that for a significant number of their customers, the kind of "free speech" allowed by Facebook increasingly has no place in our society. That "free speech" unfortunately includes the vitriol put forward by Trump and his followers, some of which has finally been removed even by Facebook. In our work, and that of others, it's increasingly clear that post-COVID-19 and with the broad movement against racism, corporate positions on these issues and corporate social responsibility matter to customers. While it remains to be seen how those customers view advertising on Facebook and actions to combat racism, there is at least a large segment that is going to hold brands responsible for their actions or inactions that do good or harm to our society. It takes corporate leadership to make tough decisions and REI, The North Face and agencies like 360i, have all done so. They should be commended. Disclosure: I am an immediate past ADL Regional Board Chair and continue to support the organization and the boycott against Facebook.

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