Is Cap'n Crunch staring at your kid in the grocery store?

In a study of 65 cereals in 10 different grocery stores, Cornell University Food and Brand Lab researchers found that cereals marketed to kids are placed half as high on supermarket shelves as adult cereals – the average height for children's cereal boxes is 23 inches, eye-level for those little munchkins.

But a second, creepier finding from the same study is that the average angle of the gaze of cereal spokes-characters on cereal boxes marketed to kids is downward at a 9.6 degree angle, whereas spokes-characters on adult cereal look almost straight ahead. In other words, Cap'n Crunch, the Trix Rabbit, Toucan Sam and Count Chocula are looking down on kids and making eye contact, they found. 
To test whether the angle of the gaze of spokes-characters on children's cereal boxes would create eye contact with children, the researchers evaluated 65 types of cereal and 86 different spokes-characters in 10 different grocery stores in New York and Connecticut. For each character the angle of the gaze was calculated four feet from the shelf – the standard distance from which shoppers view the boxes.

Results show that characters on cereals marketed to children make incidental eye contact with children and cereals marketed to adults make incidental eye contact with adult shoppers. Of the 86 different spokes-characters evaluated, 57 were marketed to children with a downward gaze at an angle of 9.67 degrees. In contrast, the gazes of characters on adult marketed cereals were nearly straight ahead, at a .43 degree upward angle.

In a second study, researchers examined the extent to which eye contact with cereal box spokes-characters influences feelings of trust and connection with a brand. Individuals were asked to view a Trix box and rate their feelings of trust and connection to the brand. Participants were randomly shown one of two versions of the box. In one version the rabbit was looking straight at the viewer, and in the other the rabbit looked down.

According to the results, brand trust was 16% higher and the feeling of connection to the brand was 28% higher when the rabbit made eye contact.

Furthermore, participants indicated liking Trix better, compared to Fruity Pebbles, when the rabbit made eye contact. “This finding shows that cereal box spokes-characters that make eye contact may increase positive feelings towards the product and encourage consumers to buy it,” the researchers said. Adding, “Two key take-aways from this study are:

“If you are a parent who does not want your kids to go 'cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs' avoid taking them down the cereal aisle.

“If you are a cereal company looking to market healthy cereals to kids, use spokes-characters that make eye contact with children to create brand loyalty!”

Silly rabbit, we guess (marketing) tricks are for kids!

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