Interview with Clayton Ruebensaal, VP Marketing for Ritz-Carlton following the hotel group’s successful 6 Word Wow campaign 

How can luxury brands engage appropriately with their clients through social channels?
By being true to who they are offline. Luxury brands have incredibly sophisticated target audiences and these consumers value genuine brands and demand transparency. Brands who can channel their authentic selves in brand voice and the ideas they bring to life in the social space will engage effectively and create interesting dialogue in the social space.

How does The Ritz-Carlton tell its story and stand out in the luxury hospitality space?
The Ritz-Carlton is focused on one thing: being the best brand in the world at making memories. We believe this is the highest ground in the luxury travel experience and it’s the ground that we’ve always owned. It’s the highest ground because affluent travelers from all of the world are choosing among brands who all have beautiful art, great food, stunning rooms – so what trumps that is the memory you bring back from your trip and they are looking for brands who can facilitate those memories. All 35,000 ladies and gentlemen of The Ritz-Carlton are trained in one thing, making unforgettable experiences for guests by doing something personal for that guest on that experience that will stay in the heart or mind long after they leave our hotel.

What inspired the 6 word wow digital campaign?
Two forces combining successfully. Force one: we have over 300,000 stories of memories we’ve created for guests, a giant asset that we wanted to leverage. Force two: consumers are all sharing their travel memories in the social space. We needed to find the overlap point of these two and we found it in an unexpected place: Ernest Hemmingway. The minute our agency Team One said that I knew where they were headed. The old legend of Hemmingway winning a bet for writing the shortest novel: “Children’s shoes. For sale. Never worn.” This was the epiphany that led to us reducing our multitude of stories down to six words. This makes these stories much more relevant in the social space by being short, easily shared, easy for consumers to participate in by writing their own.

Is there a limit to the number of social media channels luxury brands should be on? And if so which do you think are key?
I can only speak to what’s right for The Ritz-Carlton. We participate channels based on 1. Where our consumers are and 2. What our capacity is to do a first class job in that channel. #2 is critical. As with anything else a luxury brand does, it’s imperative that every time you do something it’s done well.

Who should look after social media? Should it be a young person in the office as many suggest or should it be the chief executive? Or should everyone in the company be involved?
Our criteria: 1) they have a passion and skill for the channel, 2) they have the time necessary to engage as often as consumers do in that channel, 3) they can speak fluently in our brand voice. If you don’t pass those three you aren’t given the privilege to participate.

Have the rules of good customer service changed as technology has?
Not one bit. Technology has just opened more doors for customer service successes and failures. That is why it’s critical to not look at technology (mobile, social, etc) as a new part of your brand. It’s just another place your brand needs to be itself and follow its offline brand character. 
 
What do you expect the landscape in this area to look like in a few years’ time?
Consumers and brands will go from being children to adolescents in the social space. All novelty trappings will be lost and the space will become completely mainstream to all consumers, not just digital natives.  What comes next is anyone’s guess, but my instincts say that both people and brands will go from saying everything on their minds to speaking in more targeted ways. They will communicate less often and only with content that is core to who they are and the image they aim to create.