Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Ronald Riggio

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The marketing tactics of the alcohol and tobacco industry are inextricably linked through the psychological basis upon which these companies target their customers. Through the principles of reciprocity, social proof, scarcity, commitment and consistency, unity, and authority featured in Robert Cialdini’s book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (2021). The principle of reciprocity explains how companies get customers to buy in, social proof explains our dependence on our peers’ validation, and scarcity explains why we want what we can’t have. The principles of commitment and consistency explain how companies garner long-term customers that see themselves as an extension of a brand, unity explains a customer’s need for community, and authority explains the influence of someone with power. These principles, along with psychological theories such as the Mere Exposure Effect, Evaluative Conditioning, the Situated Inference Model of Priming, the Elaboration Likelihood Model, and Social Learning Theory, explain why alcohol and tobacco ads are so effective and the mechanisms of how they became so pervasive. This thesis explores the psychology behind marketing tools such as celebrity endorsements, sponsorships and ad placements, ad campaigns, and brand activations that convince customers to invest into a brand from a young age and continue as a loyal customer for a lifetime.