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: 09/02/2021

    Can marketers successfully shift focus from acquisition to retention?

    This question is almost as old as I am and it's plain said that we're still having this discussion in 2021. There are increasingly three categories of retailers: leaders, challengers and laggards (aka road kill). The leaders and those challenging the leaders know the value of not only digital acceleration but also the recognition that the best customers are omnichannel (i.e., not just digital) and that even "non-digital" experiences are in fact, hybrid. The opportunity for marketers in a post-cookie world is to leverage their zero-/first-party data to know their customers, be relevant and pay attention to them, all in order to not only drive retention but to fuel organic growth.
  • Posted on: 08/12/2021

    Some think supply chain disruptions are here to stay until 2022

    Given the evidence it's hard not to see supply chain challenges across a number of areas, though you can't simply say "across the board." Labor aside, as it remains a huge challenge for many, there are numerous categories dealing with supply issues relating to component parts (e.g., chips for cars, group sets for bicycles). Some of these categories need several years to catch up with demand and still, logistics present further headwinds.
  • Posted on: 08/11/2021

    Will luxury consumers buy what Neiman Marcus is selling in 2021?

    While I've been a skeptic about Neiman Marcus since way before the bankruptcy, the reduction in debt load, a new focus on the customer and a return to some of the more relevant Neiman Marcus assets are a great start. The Book, in analog or digital form, shows the power of the Neiman Marcus brand and, in tandem with the new campaign, shows more promise than anything I've seen Neiman Marcus do in years. I'm moving from bearish to cautiously optimistic on (at least the potential for) a rebound for the business.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2021

    What benefits do premium loyalty program members value?

    Part of the challenge with loyalty programs in general is a lack of differentiation. Some of that can be addressed through "premium" loyalty programs but ultimately, as Neil Saunders aptly points out, there needs to be tangible value. Part of that is a function of a better experience, which The Loyalty Report quantified in 2020. The Loyalty Report 2021 expands on that and again validates that, as we have all heard and experienced, customers are willing to pay a premium for a better experience. The question is whether they will pay a premium for a better loyalty program experience. Some segments, like Millennials and Gen Z, might do so, but only for a very small number of brands. Part of the high renewal rates are a function of auto-renewal and remember, there are Goliaths like Amazon and Costco, and now Walmart+, that dominate the category. Ultimately, the premium should be in the form of higher margins, which only a strong brand coupled with better customer (and member) experience will drive.
  • Posted on: 06/24/2021

    Do stores need to take shoppers on an ‘experiential learning’ trip to succeed?

    Close physical examination is no longer a prerequisite when it comes to purchases, from deep and considered through to shallow and risk free. While it helps - Theresa Mottoros, the former president of Macy's used to say that merchants and especially customers have to "feel the merchandise." Products from cars to soft goods to consumer electronics and eyeglasses are now sold digitally. It comes down to brand trust, customer advocacy (referrals and recommendations), humans who can relate and sell and, of course, the right goods and services. Consistently. One lousy store experience can kill it all, as can one lousy digital experience.
  • Posted on: 06/23/2021

    Is ‘Buy Local’ fatigue setting in?

    Buying local, like buying from chains, is a function of the customer experience and merchandise rather than local for simply the sake of local. I'll shop local at a Sid Mashburn but not at a Macy's or Bloomingdale's for that very reason.
  • Posted on: 06/17/2021

    Is simpler better for rewards programs?

    Loyalty marketing is built on the premise that not all customers are the same and thus, marketing investments should be tailored according not just to the realized value of customers, but to their potential incremental value. It's rather arbitrary to argue that a simple vs a complex "program" is the right one, just as it is to say that tiers or no tiers are a better strategy, though tiering is well documented in terms of its effect on customer behavior and is a means, even a simple one, to differentiate customers, their value and the investment they merit.
  • Posted on: 06/17/2021

    Can a financially stable, digitally-enabled Neiman Marcus make a comeback?

    Can Neiman Marcus make a comeback? Absolutely, especially with a debt load that's 80 percent lower than pre-pandemic. The challenge, and opportunity, is to return to its position of luxury leadership, which includes a compelling but differentiated merchandise assortment, a strong service culture and pricing discipline. Neiman Marcus's path toward bankruptcy was obvious way before COVID-19 in a way that would have made Stanley Marcus cringe. Its new leadership seems to be focused on many of the right things and let's hope it can live up to its once legendary brand.
  • Posted on: 06/15/2021

    How will companies manage a staff of vaccinated and unvaccinated workers?

    My advice is absolutely to require vaccinations for anything other than remote work. Safety and trust are incredibly important to customers and employees, and that includes physical safety. Schools and camps require immunizations to prevent the spread of PREVENTABLE diseases. Workplaces should be the same. For those of us who are "knowledge" workers, what kind of knowledge ignores data and science? That same "knowledge" could presumably ignore other data pertinent to our business and clients, to our collective detriment.
  • Posted on: 05/20/2021

    Macy’s CEO says recent gains are real and better things are ahead

    Macy's results, and its improvements that drove those results, need to be taken into context relative not only to the rebound in the consumer and Macy's making progress on digital and customer initiatives but also the comparison period. The quarter LY was basically the abyss with stores closed, virus uncertainty and a massive consumer shift to savings. Macy's has way too many stores and way too little differentiation, leaving me skeptical about the bullish case for Macy's and in agreement with Paula Rosenblum regarding Mr. Gennette's hyperbolic comments. To quote Public Enemy: "Don't believe the hype."
  • Posted on: 05/18/2021

    Do brands currently have a rare opportunity to build trust with consumers?

    Like a lot of last year's impact, it wasn't as much about change as accelerating trends - opportunities - that were already in flight pre-COVID-19. Trust was absolutely one of them and perhaps the most critical for brands, given the growing mistrust in governments, NGOs and the like. Building trust in today's environment, and especially with younger consumers, starts with brands showing a focus on consumers but it increasingly extends through purpose and social values that resonate. Relevance has always been a factor in trust, as in loyalty, and likewise context has mattered but now things like time (trusting brands not to waste your time and ideally to save you time) and stakeholder capitalism (brands being good citizens not just for customers and shareholders but also for employees, partners, suppliers and communities) matter just as much. While the value of time is increasingly obvious, there are lots of skeptics about stakeholder capitalism, which makes it that much more of an opportunity for others (i.e., the non skeptics).
  • Posted on: 05/17/2021

    Whole Foods goes all-in on centralized buying

    Interesting Paula and I agree, especially with Macy's today (post-Federated). Back working for the original Macy's (pre- and post-LBO, way pre-Campeau and Federated), buying was regional but also done with ongoing dialogue between the stores and the buying office. It seemed to work well but that was a different Macy's -- and a long time ago (1986-7!).
  • Posted on: 05/17/2021

    Can Nike ‘Just Do It’ with a hybrid work model?

    If any company has a compelling reason to bring people back, and if any employee base has a similar reason, it's Nike. Having spent time "inside the berm" at WHQ, it's a pretty incredible campus and absolutely compelling in terms of environment. Equally or more important given the "W" in WHQ (i.e., world or global), Nike's culture and organizational structure includes and requires lots of cross functional collaboration (think categories and geographies). As we've all learned, or will learn as we get back out into the world, there is no substitute for spending time and building relationships IRL and the collaborative benefits it leads to.
  • Posted on: 05/17/2021

    Whole Foods goes all-in on centralized buying

    The real question is whether there are enough local/regional insights for a central buyer to deliver a relevant and unique assortment for each store/market. It's easy to be cynical but the ultimate question is whether shoppers see a difference for the better or worse, or if things stay consistent and the move is not apparent to the customers. Thus it comes down to both strategy and whether localization is still important in terms of the execution. If Whole Foods can pull this off, good for them. If not, it creates an opportunity for others, including regional chains. As there are more local options in terms of farm to-home delivery and farmers markets, this will be interesting to watch.
  • Posted on: 05/11/2021

    Simon CEO says Americans are experiencing ‘euphoria’ as they return to malls

    (Some) People might be euphoric about walking around in shopping malls but are they euphoric about shopping the stores? While there is record savings rates, less credit card debt than anytime since 2000 (and thus more openness to buy on the part of consumers), much of the shift to e-commerce is permanent. It's understandable that Simon is so bullish - given his business he needs to be -- but I'm more skeptical. As more things re-open, most malls are not going to be the destinations of choice for consumers with their valuable time, much less their money.

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