Tobacco and alcohol as product complements

Richards, Kevin
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University of Guelph

Tobacco and alcohol are product categories rich in symbolic meaning and known to have correlated consumption patterns, making them an interesting case study of product complements and consumption constellations. Internal corporate documents, from the tobacco industry, were reviewed from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, and this review was complemented with a semiotic analysis of tobacco advertisements that also depicted alcohol. The review of corporate documents reveals that symbolic meaning is apparent at both the level of product type (e.g., cigarettes, cigars, beer, and wine) and brand (e.g., Marlboro, Winston, Budweiser, and Heineken). Although the use of both functional and symbolic product properties was evident in marketing communications in efforts to appeal to target consumers, a larger focus was seemingly placed on symbolic elements. This was well illustrated in appeals to social smokers, which is a market segment with strong ties to alcohol consumption that is distinctly targeted through symbolic cues.

tobacco, alcohol, product complements, consumption patterns, symbolic cues