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: 02/16/2017

    What does it take to drive a top-down plan for customer-centricity?

    There's no doubt that customer-centricity starts at the top: not just the C-suite, but the CEO and ultimately, the board. We see many clients (companies) where there is a shift to customer centricity -- including from some of the world's great brands -- but too often it's nothing more than lip service or messaging.For customer-centricity to be genuine, it means that the company's business strategy includes the customer as a top priority. By our assessment, this prioritization means that the customer commitment is a top-3 or at worst, a top-5 priority within a company's business plan. This type of commitment means it's measurable, and talked about not just internally but externally. The external communications are essential and ensure accountability from shareholders and Wall Street, the ultimate scorecards (for public companies).
  • Posted on: 02/10/2017

    Is personalization better appreciated online or in stores?

    Too often we confuse or mis-associate personalization with relevance and recognition. There are degrees of precision that are both valued and appreciated and those are not necessarily aligned with what we often consider as personalization, which is more 1:1.Retailers struggle to be precise -- see the discussion earlier this week on how most retailers guess whether they have goods in-stock for BOPIS -- and once you get to a store-level this makes personalization problematic.
  • Posted on: 02/09/2017

    Did President Trump go too far with his Nordstrom tweet?

    We've all been hearing that "the rules no longer apply" and this is now more true than ever. Politics are increasingly inseparable from business and vice-versa, and that is largely due to the POTUS and his executive actions in his first few weeks. It's not just Nordstrom either. Look at Uber and Lyft, where the former saw mass customer defection due to its CEO meeting with POTUS. And Nike and Under Armour, where the CEOs of each company have taken very different positions, with Mark Parker coming out clearly against the Executive Order on immigration and Kevin Plank coming out staunching supporting Trump.We are only at the beginning and the longer-term ramifications are not yet understood. What is clear, however, is that brand loyalty will be either reinforced or eroded through increasingly political forces.
  • Posted on: 02/08/2017

    How good is ‘close enough’ when it comes to in-store inventory?

    It's so classic when it comes to retailers literally guessing whether or not they can satisfy customers. If they guess right, then terrific. Guess wrong and it's more than a fail when there are so many alternatives (e.g., Amazon) that offer a much greater degree of certainty.I recently had a similar experience to Nikki's with Best Buy. After ordering online and giving the store 45 minutes to pull the items, they were not available. It was a quiet day in the store and there were plenty of associates milling around, not looking particularly busy. Given that I was pressed for time and frustrated, I simply asked them to cancel the order and bought from Amazon. The goods came from Amazon as expected and it took Best Buy 10 days to fulfill its promise to cancel my order. Total fail.BOPIS is a great concept but when you arrive at the store and it's significantly faster and easier to order from Amazon (in hindsight) or walk to the goods on the floor for purchase, the brand trust the retailer might have had quickly erodes.
  • Posted on: 02/03/2017

    Is Macy’s about to be sold?

    Perhaps I'm just tired at the end of the week but I have a hard time recalling retail buyouts the size of a Macy's that have been successful. Even for smaller retailers, it's not a long list. Of course, having started my career when Macy's was still Macy's (I'm that old), this brings up the ill-fated LBO that changed Macy's forever. It's never fully regained its true excellence since 1986 and it's hard to see another turnover changing this course. That said, Hudson Bay Co. is one of the better ones so we will see. Wishing all of our friends there the best of luck!
  • Posted on: 01/11/2017

    Are reports on the death of newspapers greatly exaggerated?

    Print circulars have about as much chance of being primary consumer media as the abacus does of replacing our smartphones. While print is still viable -- especially direct mail -- mass circulars are long done. Increasingly, smart retailers will not have to pay others (beyond USPS) to distribute their messages to their customers like they used to, and this should increase annually. The more retailers can directly engage with customers, the less they need to rely on media, especially traditional vehicles like ROP and circulars.
  • Posted on: 01/05/2017

    Will store closings and layoffs end Macy’s woes?

    Macy's problems, like many others facing similar challenges, is broader than being over-stored. They are overly promotional. You can't continually drive sales AND margin with markdowns, absent any sort of compelling differentiator to drive store traffic. Macy's is working to fix things, but this is only one step.
  • Posted on: 01/04/2017

    What does the strong 2016 Christmas foretell for retail in 2017?

    No surprise that sales are up. The economy is reasonably healthy and retailers discounted like crazy. The real question is whether margins yielded any profits, or at least any uptick versus last year. My bet is that profits were, at best, flat YOY.
  • Posted on: 01/03/2017

    What will Amazon gain from its charitable shipping efforts?

    I agree with you Laura that this is smart, but it goes beyond marketing and I think that this provides yet another differentiator for Amazon. While we might not see (for a while, if at all) what the data will show, my bet is that this drives lift from customers who engage and participate.
  • Posted on: 01/03/2017

    What will Amazon gain from its charitable shipping efforts?

    Amazon once again demonstrates leadership where most companies fail -- in doing the right thing for its customers and communities. This move continues to demonstrate that Amazon does things that are not obviously in its own best interest, but that are clearly good for customers and other stakeholders (i.e., communities and an organization like Goodwill that helps people in need). This is a great story and move to kick off 2017, even though it's not new, that shows the good that can happen when leaders do the right things.
  • Posted on: 12/20/2016

    If not creative directors or data, what can make Gap’s fashions sell?

    Making a binary choice between a creative director and the use of data-driven insights is absurd. Insights drive creative, otherwise it's just about someone making things up and hoping they work. Business, retail and especially fashion requires creativity; data alone does not make for creativity.If you want to know what's wrong at Gap, look at their website or visit a store. They've become just like everyone else: a mass discounter selling the same things as too many other merchants. Look at J.Crew too, another former industry leader who is now increasingly irrelevant.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2016

    Can engagement replace transaction rewards?

    In traditional loyalty programs, engagement rewards -- really engagement recognition in the form of point accruals -- are not economically sustainable by themselves. So the answer is no, they won't replace them but they can be effective when they do what loyalty programs ultimately need to do: result in a better customer experience. That's why surveys (listening to customers) and completing profiles and updating preferences (broadening customer insights) are important.Loyalty programs have become entirely too transactional and engagement has suffered. There has been a 20 percent decline globally in participation among affluents (according to Collinson) and satisfaction levels have declined in tandem. Too many programs, too little differentiation and too little relevance. These engagement activities help, but ultimately will not be enough to overcome the lack of differentiation and customer relevance.
  • Posted on: 11/30/2016

    Will sales promotions be the death of department stores?

    Haven't sales already killed department stores? When even Nordstrom succumbs and decides it can't run its business without (at least) seven promotional periods a year -- this from a legendary merchant who used to pride itself on only two sales per year -- it's hard to go against the grain. It has literally been decades since department stores have had the discipline to manage business by merchandising, and even some marketing, rather than markdowns.It will be interesting to see whether the NRF's expectations of +3.6 percent holiday revenues translate into any real growth in income for department stores. My expectation is that they won't and that ultimately Mr. Questrom will be proven correct.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2016

    Will a national loyalty program yield rewards for Whole Foods?

    It will be interesting indeed to see whether Whole Foods can roll out its loyalty program and not "race to the bottom." The focus appears to be largely one-dimensional, focus on pricing, offers and other discounts. Absent a broader focus beyond a transactional loyalty program it's entirely possible, if not probable, that it will indeed retain customers but dilute its margins, along with its brand.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2016

    Ode to retail: Death of the traditional mall

    Malls aren't dead but they have failed, along with their tenants, to deliver a compelling, relevant shopping experience, especially compared to Amazon and innovators like Warby Parker and Bonobos. Mall operators and retailers need to start thinking about customers first, which they are loathe to do, much as they have consistently failed to invest in technology to deliver the aforementioned better customer experience.

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