How Cereal Box Mascots Are Designed To Look At Kids

Eye contact may increase brand loyalty, new research finds.

1. Loyalty is in the eye of the beholder, according to new research. A Cornell study found that cereals marketed to children often feature characters looking down.

Rick Wilking / Reuters

More than half of the 86 cereal box characters in 10 different grocery stores looked at a nearly 10-degree downward angle, making them more likely to create eye contact with children when shoppers stand the standard distance of 4 feet from the shelf.

2. Cereal boxes marketed to adults, on the other hand, have characters with nearly straight gazes at a very slight upward angle about half a degree.

Mike Blake / Reuters / Reuters

The Cornell researchers also confirmed previous studies that children’s cereals are placed half as high on supermarket shelves as adult cereals.

3. What does this mean, exactly?

 

Findings show eye contact increases trust up to 16% and feeling connected to the brand up to 28% for both children and adults. And more positive feelings toward the brand might make you more likely to buy it.

5. In a blog response to the studies, General Mills Vice President of Global Communications Tom Forsythe called the research “absurd.”

After searching Trix boxes with a Google search, Forsythe found the rabbit wasn’t always gazing ahead, noting he looks up, left, right, straight ahead, at the cereal, and even closing his eyes.

6. Forsythe also searched the average age and height of a child when he or she begins to walk.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

He found that most walk at around 13 months and are an average of 30 inches tall. Comparing that to the researchers’ finding that boxes are placed at an average of 20–23 inches, he concludes:

If this research was in any way meaningful – which it’s not – these supposedly downward looking characters would be looking below eye level of the youngest kids possible.

Unless mom is dragging the kid on the floor. Or the kid is duck-walking.

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