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  • Writer's pictureShelly Albaum

Critical Thinking Exercise: Commercial Marketing Propaganda at AC Hotels

For higher education faculty teaching classes in critical thinking, semiotics, or commercial psychology, I offer a case study in one of the greatest exercises ever in persuasive commercial mythologizing.

AC Hotels is a modern/chic/minimalist European brand owned by Marriott, bearing the tag "A New Way to Hotel."

When I entered my room in March 2019, the following six-minute advertisement was playing in a loop, mythologizing and mystifying the hotel's meat carving machine, beverage glasses, architecture, and smell. You can view the video and a transcript of the video below.

You won't easily find a more extreme version of bullshit-spewing, nonsensical hype, which among other things asserts that the hotel's meat-slicing machine "makes you feel special."

The video contains four sections, devoted respectively to:

1. The Meat-Slicing Machine at the AC Hotels

2. The Gin and Tonic Glasses at the AC Hotels

3. The Architecture at the AC Hotels

4. The Scent Identity at the AC Hotels

You will learn, for example, that:

* It took two years of university research to design the glasses

* It takes twenty hours to assemble the meat slicer's 200 hundred pieces

* You will feel the architecture

* The scent at the hotel has the potential to be signature and transcendent

The guest room Wall Art, the Gin and Tonic Glasses and the Meat Slicer are so precious that, like God in some religions, they cannot be depicted. So the video only gives brief, veiled glimpses of the divine.

Blasphemously, I took photos of the slicer and the beverage glass. You can see them below, too.

Critical Thinking Exercise

Part 1. The first part of the exercise is descriptive: Identify ways in which the marketers attempt to impart meaning to things that are not intrinsically meaningful, and suggest innovativeness in the absence of innovation.

Part 2. The next part is normative: Identify ways in which the marketers attempt to make you care about something that you wouldn't normally care about, and shouldn't care about.

Part 3. Implied premises. Identify all the implied premises required to make the logic work in this argument:

  • The Spanish took the classic British cocktail Gin and Tonic and brought it back to life

  • AC Hotels has a credible Spanish heritage

  • And so that's why we decided to really take on the task of creating a beautiful new experience for AC Hotel guests

Part 4. Finally, just as the marketers repeatedly remind us that, paradoxically, "Beauty Is Invisible," note all the non-verbal ways in which the video attempts to persuade us, using for example sound, imagery, tone of voice, and cadence.

BONUS Points: Where else have you experienced marketers trying to making you think something ordinary and unimportant is extraordinary and important?

Here is the video:


Here is a transcript of the video:


The red color made it iconic.

It's attractive to our eyes, attractive to the senses.

Berkel and AC Hotels is a perfect marriage.

It's not only about performance; it's about beauty.

It makes you feel special.

Beauty is an invisible thing.

The first reaction usually is like "wow, that is beautiful,"

And that is when the machine is not in use.

When it's in use, that awesome that they got at the beginning turns into excitement.

The machine has more than 200 pieces.

It takes around 20 hours to assemble by hand.

Since the very beginning, Van Berkel was not only concerned about the performance of the machine, but also about how beautiful it can be.

It's full of details that has made it so iconic for over 120 years.

Berkel and AC Hotels is a perfect marriage,

In terms of the experience they provide to their guests.

Preparation of food becomes an art.

It really enhances the atmosphere of the hotel.

It makes you feel special.

My name is Alberto Gonzalez and I am VP of Sales and Marketing for Van Berkel International.

And just like AC Hotels, we always need to look for the next level.


A drink at the AC Hotels is an experience.

It starts with the right ingredients.

The shape. The rhythm. The beauty of the details. A fusion of flavors.

It all comes together.

To create the perfect moment.

Beauty lies in the details.

I've always loved the Gin and Tonic.

The Spanish took this classic British cocktail and brought it back to life.

AC Hotels has a credible Spanish heritage.

And so that's why we decided to really take on the task

Of creating a beautiful new experience for AC Hotel guests.

We partnered with a notable university for two years researching the best shape for the glass.

Because AC Hotels is all about those fine details.

You see these etchings that go around the glass here. They're specific measurements for the amount of tonic, and the amount of gin, and the amount of ice.

So you get it right.

If it's shaped right, you'll be able to smell it, and you'll be able to feel the bubbles.

You can really enjoy the full experience of the Gin and Tonic.

For me it's like the best drink to wind down at the end of the day.

I'm Nigel Barker, the creative director behind the new AC Gin and Tonic glass.


The AC Hotel architecture influences all of the senses.

We are creating a stage set.

A combination of drama and spaciousness,

And at the same time, intimacy and comfort.

You may not be looking at the details the way an architect may look at the details,

But you will feel them.

Beauty is an invisible thing

The AC Hotel architecture influences all of the senses.

You experience the quiet of the space,

The freshness of the air.

All of your senses are involved.

It's the beauty of the space,

The beauty of the materials,

The beauty of the furniture.

And the fact that the AC Hotel surrounds you with beautiful pieces of artwork.

So you know wherever you are in the world

That you're in the room of an AC Hotel.

Hotels have a lot to do with theater.

We are creating a stage set with the drama of coming into something which has lots of transparency, and spaces that are also intimate and comfortable.

This is the kind of place that a guest will remember and that a guest will want to return to.

You may not be looking at the details the way an architect may look at the details,

But you will feel them.

I'm David Helpern, one of the architects behind the AC Hotels by Marriott.


The notion of beauty is the reason we exist.

The AC scent is an invisible art form.

And this is meant to be an inspiring and refreshing thing.

But also grounding and comforting.

It smells like a moment.

A walk in the woods.

Beauty is an invisible thing

I'm trying to tap into feeling and emotion,

And something that has the potential to be signature.

And possibly transcendent.

I think it was really about interpreting what feeling that AC was trying to convey.

The AC scent is quite complex.

Basically, there are five highlights:

Cut grass and root.

Fig leaf and stem.

Gum resins, amber elements, and then lastly, the fir balsam.

You're between two worlds when you're traveling.

And this is meant to be an inspiring and refreshing thing.

But also a grounding and comforting thing.

And it's one thing that will link all the properties wherever go in the world.

My name is Frederick Bouchardy and I created the scent identity for the AC Hotels.


Here are images of the the meat slicer and the gin and tonic glass (I can't replicate the smell -- you'll just have to imagine in your mind: Grass and Root, Fig Leaf and Stem, gum resins, amber elements, and balsam fir.

Van Berkel meat slicer at Marriott AC Hotel

AC Hotel Gin and Tonic Glass

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