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: 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.
  • Posted on: 10/01/2019

    Do retail metrics need to be reinvented?

    Very simply, the key retail metric should be what we have for years referred to as "comp customer" which is exactly what it sounds like: rather than retailers measuring same-store sales, they should measure same-customer sales. It easily extends to margin and as a baseline, reflects the strength of the brand and its customer marketing and how well that translates to monetizing the business's key asset: customers. Measuring comp customer sales and margin reflects the true health of the business, including its ability to acquire and grow customers. It reveals trends across channels, transactions or subscriptions and likewise it allows for a company to easily build a customer P&L. Not surprisingly, very few companies measure or publish these metrics. Among those that do are Amazon and Schwab.
  • Posted on: 09/09/2019

    Will Apple’s texting tool create more personalized shopping experiences at Burberry?

    It's great to see text messaging, now 25+ years old, "emerging" as a tool for retailers. The fact that it requires an app is not terribly time saving nor is it an easy - or the easiest - path for most customers. While Burberry was ahead of the curve with digital, we'll see if this brings it back to a place of leadership.
  • Posted on: 09/09/2019

    Glossier poaches Amazon exec to drive growth

    Glossier is smart to hire Melissa Eamer based simply on what she's experienced at Amazon. The fact that she observed that Glossier is "customer obsessed" is evidenced by her hiring. From observation and a bit of experience getting to know the company, this is a clear evolution. While there is nothing wrong with launching and achieving high growth through blogging (the origin of Glossier, Into the Gloss) and social media (Instagram), that is not sustainable in a brutally competitive field like beauty with a legacy of largely indirect distribution. This is Glossier's opportunity to legitimately show loyalty to its already loyal customer base and extend its differentiation.
  • Posted on: 09/04/2019

    Simple answers to fix retail’s loyalty marketing mess

    Good points by David and Michael but usage of the term "loyalty" isn't the problem nearly as much as the understanding of what loyalty is, and especially what it means to consumers. In our proprietary research (quantitative), consumers are very clear that they are indeed loyal and likewise they are clear on what it means: a willingness to pay a premium or go out of their way to do business with a brand. Consider this definition in the context of merchandise commoditization and a total lack of pricing discipline where even Nordstrom now is an everyday promotional retailer. Loyalty is a function of differentiation both for retailers and their brands but also for customers. Commoditization (and poor) merchandising combined with being overly promotional is not the answer, whether in the form of a "program" or not.
  • Posted on: 08/28/2019

    Innovation: Are retailers trying to do too much?

    Brian's closing sentence nails the obvious answer: retailers have lost focus not only on their core value propositions but have, more importantly, lost focus on their customers. Shopping most chains is painful in terms of the customer experience, especially when compared with emerging leaders who know exactly what they are, who their customers are and why their brand, CX and merchandise (oh, that!) are relevant.
  • Posted on: 08/19/2019

    Will a rental subscription program lift Banana Republic’s results?

    The pros include this being a new thing in retail (lbeit not pioneered by BR) and the flexibility it provides. The list of cons is more significant, starting with the BR brand and its currently lagging performance. Walking through a mall over the weekend it was hard not to see the markdowns offered at BR as well as other Gap brands. The price point of $85/month is probably too high for many, at least in terms of perception. If customers don't want to buy goods from BR, even with deep discounts, why are they going to pay a reasonably high subscription fee to rent them? This is, sadly, more retailers grasping at straws looking for silver bullets.
  • Posted on: 08/16/2019

    Can Jill Soltau rebuild J.C. Penney?

    At the risk of echoing what seems to be a consensus among BrainTrust members here, I'll simply say no. J.C. Penney has long since lost its relevance and like others who have failed to rebuild, the headwinds are just too strong and are likely to intensify over the next four to eight quarters. There is nothing special or unique about J.C. Penney other than its struggles.
  • Posted on: 08/15/2019

    Is it time for retailers to tier up their loyalty/reward programs?

    Peter and Sarah are spot on. Most retailers need to do more than upgrade their loyalty programs, they need to understand and practice loyalty marketing -- which is more than simply offering a loyalty program. More importantly, they must understand what customer loyalty actually means. Loyalty marketing is not about discounts. Customer loyalty -- as defined by customers (through rDialogue proprietary research) -- means a willingness to pay a premium or go out of one's way to do business with a brand. That's why loyal customer are willing to pay a membership fee or, alternatively, pay more for similar products. Case in point: Amazon for retail, Delta Airlines for travel. As a CFO at a client of ours aptly said, "great companies get their best customers to pay more." Retailers play one card in their hand, discounts, to the extent of their profitability.

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