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: 12/01/2022

    Walgreens rolls out 24/7 delivery and parents with sick kids do the happy dance

    This is another illustration of the value of time and convenience relative to consumer choice and loyalty. It's a smart move and once that will pay off, as long as it's truly more convenient -- and timely -- than a customer having to go to a store in the middle of the night. As healthcare continues to expand outside of traditional channels, Walgreens is well positioned.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2022

    Claire’s sets up shops inside of Macy’s stores

    It's hard to see this being a significant growth driver for Macy's, which seems to be throwing a lot of spaghetti at the proverbial wall. Having started my career at the original Macy's during the original rise of The Limited and Gap, the "shop-within-a-store" strategy made a lot of sense to maintain department store dominance. However today I struggle to even walk the floors in one of their stores, and can only think of those who built the business rolling over in their graves at what ultimately happened to a once remarkable retailer. Credit Macy's for trying new (-ish) things but it's hard to be bullish, especially in such a promotional and competitive environment.
  • Posted on: 11/04/2022

    Will dynamic pricing work for restaurants?

    It will work for certain categories and brands but it's unlikely to work on any kind of widespread basis. There are other ways to manage yield and demand other than dynamic prices and these techniques are already utilized, whether they are the idea of "happy hour" or only having a prix fixe menu that's not available on weekends or certain hours. The challenge is to manage guest expectations and ensure that they do not feel gouged when demand is high and pricing is at a premium.
  • Posted on: 11/01/2022

    Can Marks & Spencer help Target replicate its designer collab magic in grocery?

    One key to success for Target is making sure its shoppers understand what is special about M&S and its line of foods. Given the state of the economy these types of gifts, with their British heritage, should do well in the U.S., assuming there is the proper education as likely a large percentage of shoppers are unfamiliar with the line.
  • Posted on: 10/31/2022

    Walgreens is ditching task-based performance metrics for pharmacists

    For Walgreens and others in the retail pharmacy business, it's clear that if you want to be that alternative to a PCP or urgent care facility, you need to focus on outcomes rather than tasks. That said, it's a core challenge of healthcare, as everyone chases profits at the expense -- literally and figuratively -- of wellness and healthy/healthier outcomes for patients and communities.
  • Posted on: 10/31/2022

    What are the biggest emerging threats facing online delivery?

    All of the above and I'll endorse Neil Saunders' addition of profitability which would - when coupled with the others — be consolidated into one: sustainability. The current models for home delivery are simply not sustainable though some of the challenges are absolutely self-inflicted, especially by the retailers. While the threat of Amazon is real, and that includes Prime and its delivery value proposition, merchants need to create their own value proposition that is superior and drives loyalty. Consumers define loyalty as "a willingness to pay a premium or go out of their way" to do business with a brand. Either of these factors addresses delivery's fundamental problems.
  • Posted on: 10/26/2022

    Adidas drops the other shoe on Ye

    Adidas will be fine albeit $2 billion lighter in revenue, at a minimum, going forward. It's easy to say they took too long but given the size of the Yeezy business at Adidas, there is a lot more to do than say "we are dropping Kanye." This comes at a time where there is CEO transition and other headwinds for the business. The challenges include goods in the pipeline, at retail and other factors (e.g., wholesale partners, production) and orchestrating not just the messaging - which indeed could have been much better handled and obviously more timely - and dealing with all the consequences. Most importantly, the villain here is not Adidas or the other companies that did business with him, it's Mr. West himself, and the related scum that he's empowered, like those in LA and elsewhere that feel screened to show their true disgusting selves.
  • Posted on: 10/06/2022

    Macy’s mined credit card data to avoid taking on excess inventory

    Retailers, and often their co-brand credit card partners, are often missing the key data set that unlocks insights such as Macy's here: the customer. This is but one case study of the value of a co-branded credit card and similar relationships with credit and charge (i.e., American Express) cards as well as the networks (i.e., Visa). All that said, while Macy's "has been successful, at least in comparison to Kohl's," it has a way to go in terms of being more centered on its customers and aligning its business accordingly.
  • Posted on: 10/04/2022

    Will Columbia Sportswear benefit from a greater wholesale emphasis?

    Unlike Nike, Adidas, Patagonia and some of the others mentioned, Columbia isn't such a "sought-after" leading or premium brand. Wholesale distribution makes sense. As the other, stronger brands edit their wholesale partners, Columbia is smart to step in and take some of that business. It's actually refreshing to see a brand recognize itself for what it is, unlike some others who feign a luxury or premium position when they aren't such a thing.
  • Posted on: 10/03/2022

    Does Sephora need a same-day delivery subscription?

    For Sephora loyalists, same-day delivery has true value. For the same reason that department stores traditionally keep beauty on the main floor for convenience and driving frequency. This could be as much a defensive play for Sephora to maintain and grow share of wallet as it is a net growth driver. Much like the traditional Nordstrom promise of "we'll open the store for top customers after hours in case of emergency," this is nice to have in terms of reinforcing the value proposition of the brand.
  • Posted on: 09/21/2022

    Gap is cutting 500 corporate jobs as it searches for a CEO and answers

    As I've written before, retailers like Gap that have lost their way and what made them successful originally are doomed, much like Sears. Athleta is perhaps a bright spot, Old Navy is seemingly toast. With every retailer being promotional these days, cutting prices, like cutting people, isn't going to work. Rather than too big to fail, Gap is likely too big to succeed. And that's why cutting won't work. There needs to be real leadership and a market position that customers will seek out and pay for. That's a tall order.
  • Posted on: 08/26/2022

    Transactional reward programs are easy, but do they build customer loyalty?

    Real loyalty - which consumers define as being "willing to go out of [their] way and/or pay a premium to do business with a brand" is by definition not completely transactional. Transactional loyalty is, when done right, a more productive way to be promotional so that rewards, aka discounts and free stuff, are more aligned with customer value. That said, transactional loyalty is more often an expensive way for retailers to discount, especially when there is little brand differentiation or experiential value. Consumers of course love discounts and free stuff, but to equate that with loyalty, which is often inclusive of advocacy, engagement, incremental data sharing and margin, is far from an absolute truth.
  • Posted on: 08/23/2022

    Sales and marketing pros want more from their CRM systems

    Great discussion topic and comments. Having been involved with dozens of retailers and systems in terms of strategy, selling, implementation and execution, there are common themes resulting in such low satisfaction levels. Here are my top 3:
    1. Bad or no strategy, usually resulting from silo'd requirements, decision-making and support. CRM is not a departmental function but really takes an enterprise-wide commitment to be excellent (i.e., show profit impact). This requires leadership.
    2. Bad, incomplete or under-utilized data. The foundational data in any CRM system needs to be usable and used. CRM requires the proper utilization of data and the resulting insights to be good for the customer, the business and its employees (and partners/suppliers).
    3. Bad marketing. See #1 re strategy but there are too many CRM (and loyalty) practitioners that fail to understand the value that data can unlock. At the heart of CRM is the ability to capture, process and extract value from data that drives revenue, margin and profit growth.
  • Posted on: 08/19/2022

    Are retailers missing opportunities to leverage location-powered experiences?

    First, thanks for a great webinar everyone! The slowness of retailers to adopt LBS and other new technological capabilities has everything to do with a lack of emphasis on the customer and the customer experience. Unless or until leadership makes customers a priority as part of the business plan - not just the marketing plan - the leaders and challengers will continue to be separated from the laggards.
  • 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.

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