Why That Character on the Cereal Box Is Looking at You

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A new study indicates that making eye contact with characters like Cap’n Crunch could increase brand trust by 16 percent.

Do you feel like you’re being watched when you walk down the cereal aisle? It’s not your imagination. While the Quaker Oats man is looking straight at you, Tony the Tiger and the rest of his kid-friendly comrades are making eyes at your children.

Why is Tony staring down your kids? It appears that Tony is trying to lure your children in, using eye contact to entice them to want to buy and eat Frosted Flakes cereal.

A recent study from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab indicates that cereal characters’ eye contact is a key marketing strategy. According to The Huffington Post:

This eye contact isn’t just a matter of being polite. The study found that trust for and connection to a brand are significantly increased when eye contact is established. The researchers came to that conclusion after participants viewed two versions of a Trix cereal box, one in which eye contact was made and one in which it was not. They found that when the Trix rabbit made eye contact, “brand trust” increased by 16 percent and “feeling of connection to the brand” rose 28 percent.

While kids’ cereals are usually placed on lower shelves in the grocery store with cereal box characters that look downward at a 9.7-degree angle, cereals marketed to adults are placed on the higher shelves and often feature characters that look straight ahead at adults.

“If you are a parent who does not want your kids to go ‘cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs,’ avoid taking them down the cereal aisle,” study co-author Brian Wansink said in a statement.

But makers of healthy cereal can also take note: Find a cute mascot that makes eye contact with a child, and you just might entice kids to eat your cereal for breakfast.

What do you think of this latest study? Have you seen Cap’n Crunch stalking your child with his eyes? Share your thoughts below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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