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: 08/16/2017

    Will more promos fix Dick’s Sporting Goods pricing challenge?

    Of course Dick's should increase promotional activity. It worked for Sports Authority, didn't it? And so many others (insert your favorite bankrupt retailer here ____).Increased promotion, especially when it's "aggressive," is a scientifically proven way to reduce margin and net income. Unless retailers like Dick's start talking about customers, their retail experiences and what differentiates their ability to sell and create demand in dimensions other than price, they are doomed to continue the trend of failure.
  • Posted on: 08/15/2017

    Is Target ready to make a move on the home delivery front?

    This is a smart move by Target but it remains to be seen how well they can and will compete with AMZN and others. Now Boxed is getting into same-day delivery (a 3 hours window) as well. So while there is competition, Target still has a solid customer base and this will bring it closer to being viable versus AMZN, though closer is relative given how far ahead Amazon is now. Retailers need to understand the new drivers of customer engagement and loyalty and this underscores the value of TIME as a powerful loyalty currency.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2017

    Does Dunkin’ need donuts?

    It likely won't hurt to remove "Donuts" but Dunkin' has more foundational problems than having "Donuts" in its name. Its strategy has lagged behind Starbucks for years, especially when it comes to "unparalleled convenience." That gap is a real challenge, as Starbucks just cited that 9 percent of its customers are now using its mobile pickup offering.It's interesting that Dunkin' suggests a "new restaurant image ... [will offer] ... unparalleled convenience." It will take much more than image to achieve that unless there is a truly customer-centric business strategy prioritizing the customer experience rather than other aspects of its operation.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2017

    Should executive pay structures change to address slower growth at retail?

    It's really hard to see the dismal performance of so many retailers correlated to (the dearth of) bonuses and suggest they are misaligned. If anything it is encouraging to see the bonuses so well correlated, especially as many retailer CEO salaries are still exorbitant when their performance is considered. It's easy to cite a rising minimum wage and declining traffic as complicating factors but ultimately it's up to the board to determine CEO pay and how it is structured relative to the business situation, strategy, leadership and, yes, performance.
  • Posted on: 08/07/2017

    What made GameStop decide to open on Thanksgiving this year?

    The question of whether it is good PR to stay closed or remain open for customers is likely not the right ask relative to GameStop. Retailers suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) just like people do. The object of their FOMO isn't related to PR but rather - and this is especially true for GameStop - revenues. Specifically, falling revenues and negative comps.REI continues to stand out for what it believes in and making that its messaging platform in answering this question. Many of the other retailers are struggling with the question for the simple reason that they are paying attention to their competitors rather than their customers. As Jeff Bezos said, "If you're competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering."
  • Posted on: 08/07/2017

    Is agile fulfillment the solution to retail’s renaissance?

    Agility over scale works for small, it won't work for large. Agility is a strategy and implies a recognition that not all customers are on the same journey nor do they have the same wants, needs and expectations. To embrace agility but not in a scalable manner is a fail unless you're a small merchant.Scale is relative to which customers a retailer is serving. Part of loyalty marketing is the recognition that not all customers are equal (in value) and thus scale might not be the same thing as being able to do everything for every customer. Loyalty marketing discipline says this is likely a mistake. For example, Amazon scales its expedited shipping for Prime members, not for all customers. This is simple in concept but gets more complex in determining what services - fulfillment or otherwise - need to be developed and executed for all customers rather than select ones.
  • Posted on: 07/21/2017

    Did Amazon just send Sears a life line with their Kenmore deal?

    Sears has been pretty clear about re-inventing its business, raising cash via asset sales and the importance of Shop Your Way. Regardless of what it wants to do with Kenmore as a brand, i.e., "love it or list it," this is a very smart move for Sears and it follows Nike's playbook that it's better to join Amazon than fight. It will put pressure on J.C. Penney (and less directly but not insignificantly, Best Buy and Walmart) and might set the stage for more collaboration.Don't discount the value of how large Shop Your Way is and Amazon's interest in expanding the penetration it has with affluents to a more mass-market customer base (not that it doesn't already have one).This is the second big and positive Sears story this week and those who are and have been quick to write them off as dead or zombie-like might ultimately be surprised. Sears has a long way to go and a lot of uncertainty remains but it cannot be said they've collapsed and death is imminent.
  • Posted on: 07/20/2017

    How much Big Data do retailers really need?

    Retailers who haven't embraced Big Data, and likely are not terribly customer-centric, need to start small, test and learn. There is a wide spectrum between hyper-relevance, which is the future and mass retail, which is the past. Navigating that spectrum in the proper direction requires leadership and investment in technology that many retailers have not wanted to do.Looking at the industry today, there is a clear divergence between retailers that understand the value of customer-centricity and correspondingly are investing in Big Data and those who don't. Amazon has reset consumer expectations in terms of relevance and a better customer experience and those two priorities -- customer-centricity and leveraging data in tandem -- are what power success today. Not just for Amazon but for others that are continuing to be successful in the face of competition such as Best Buy.There is an abundance of new and transformative technology to enable retailers in their journeys for customer relevance and it's easy to make the argument that it's not too late.
  • Posted on: 07/18/2017

    Is Best Buy’s latest Geek Squad service a blueprint for niche IoT?

    Best Buy is ahead of Amazon for now given the head start it's had with Geek Squad and its physical presence, but it is unwise to expect Amazon not to be formidable in this niche and others. That said, Best Buy also has trust not only of older shoppers, but it's also compelling for the caregivers who are Boomers and (increasingly) GenXers. It's a smart strategy from Best Buy who, more than many other retailer, has done some smart things to successfully compete with Amazon.
  • Posted on: 07/13/2017

    Will more customer rewards lift J.C. Penney’s sales?

    Rewards programs -- and loyalty propositions in general -- serve to make customers addressable and trackable for retailers. They are essential when customer anonymity is a challenge and certainly retail (unless it's pure e-commerce) falls squarely into that requirement.The challenge with making programs more generous and flexible -- which for J.C. Penney was largely focused on competing with Kohl's -- is that they become dilutive for the best customers and dilutive when coupled (stacked) with discounts and promos.The new J.C. Penney program reflects some smart moves but is still almost fully transactional, with a limited set of soft benefits. Retail is increasingly divided into those focused on competing on price versus those more focused on customers and a better customer experience. Those in the former category will be challenged. Those focusing on improving the CX will win.
  • Posted on: 07/05/2017

    How can retailers make loyalty programs more effective?

    There are three fundamental problems that preclude most retailers' "ability" to move beyond traditional, transactional programs.First, they lack the customer-centric leadership that prioritizes customers over prospects. Or customers over merchandise. Or customers over stores. Or customers over promotion. Unlike Amazon and a handful of other industry leaders that recognize the value and opportunity from considering (and being committed to) customer-centricity as a business strategy.Second, most of the players in the loyalty industry are focused on selling technology that is designed for enabling the dated points system and rewards strategy that is reflected in most retail loyalty program designs.Last, and consistent with the first two points, is that absent those elements it is much easier for a retailer to be promotional, both in the context of its loyalty program and in general. Those things undermine profitability which in turn makes it that much harder for retailers to invest in new technologies, much less innovation and moving away from being so promotional.It's a vicious rather than virtuous circle that, along with the impact of Amazon, is accelerating the demise of weaker retailers.
  • Posted on: 06/29/2017

    Has CVS gone too far with its health kick?

    The contrasts and similarities between CVS and Walgreens are incredibly interesting. They are both pursuing strategies more closely aligned to wellness, but taking very different strategies, both in terms of merchandising and customer marketing.CVS removed tobacco and is doing moves with its merchandise (i.e., candy in the center of the store vs. the perimeter) but still employing a totally transactional approach to "loyalty marketing." Its loyalty strategy is focused on discounts whereas Walgreens, which hasn't made drastic changes in its merchandise mix (i.e., they haven't removed tobacco), pursues a customer marketing strategy aligned with wellness.So which one has a better brand story and overall customer experience? Compare their stock charts for the answer and it's quite clear.
  • Posted on: 06/21/2017

    Why did McDonald’s end its Olympic sponsorship?

    The Olympics, politics aside, are an expensive sponsorship in both actual dollars and relative to other, more measurable marketing investments. Perhaps MCD realized that it could better invest the money in customers or a better customer experience? They seem to be making good progress on their turnaround and this just might align with that strategy.
  • Posted on: 06/20/2017

    Will UPS’s Black Friday delivery surcharge have retailers seeing red?

    These surcharges are relatively minimal in the context of whatever the total basket of goods will be. If time matters -- and it does -- it's a relatively small price to pay for either the retailer or the customer. Given the significance of Black Friday, if anything is surprising it's that the surcharge isn't higher.
  • Posted on: 06/19/2017

    Will the Bonobos acquisition give Walmart a fashion edge?

    Three thoughts on Walmart buying Bonobos, especially contrasted against Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods Market.
    1. If you consider Amazon's now 20-year obsession with customers and Walmart's lengthier obsession with low prices and size, it's hard to relate to what Walmart is trying to achieve if it has anything to do with either Walmart's or Bonobos' customers.
    2. As a fairly loyal Bonobos customer and someone who only shops Walmart to pay attention to what's going on there, this deal is a turn off. As someone who devotes his professional life to customer marketing, it's equally a turnoff.
    3. Walmart's core acquisition -- i.e., Jet.com -- was smart given Amazon's lead over Walmart in digital commerce. This deal might buy Walmart some talent, but it's not going to be overly accretive nor is it going to be explicitly synergistic. Again, contrast this to Amazon and Whole Foods sharing a core customer base of more affluent customers, a commitment to those customers and commitments to making the world better and it's difficult to see Walmart with a brilliant grand strategy here.
    4. Beyond Andy Dunn's implied interest in working with Jet.com's Marc Lore, which could be quite palpable, it's hard to see other Bonobos employees being terribly excited about working for Walmart. By contrast, there is tremendous enthusiasm at Whole Foods about working with Amazon.
    If I ran a long/short hedge fund this would lead me to (remain) being long Amazon and short Walmart.

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