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Did you know? Cereal mascots are designed to make eye contact with our children!

Having two young children, I avoid the cereal isle at all cost. It’s bad enough these sugary cereals are everywhere you turn…now it’s been revealed that the cute characters on the boxes are actually making eye contact with our kids. Creepy, but smart. Besides the love of sugar, this also explains why our kids feel connected to spokes characters like Cap’n Crunch, Trix Rabbit, and Lucky the Leprechaun.

A study by Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab reveals consumers are 16% more likely to trust a brand of cereal if the character on the box is staring directly into their eyes. The research included 65 brands of cereal on the shelves of 10 different grocery stores in New York and Connecticut. Allowing a standard four-feet distance between shoppers and the cereal shelf, researchers calculated the angle in which 86 different cereal characters gazed at shoppers.


The result? Cereal characters marketed toward children and those geared toward adults are designed to make incidental eye contact with their target consumers. Out of 86 different cereal characters, 57 were designed with a 9.67-degree downward gaze in order to attract the attention of kids.

The researchers also found that kids’ cereals are positioned at “kid height" – about 23 inches off of the floor – while adult cereals are positioned at about 48 inches high. The mascots of "adult” cereals were designed with a slight upward angle and basically stared straight ahead.

The study also asked 63 college students to observe two versions of a Trix cereal box and give their opinion on trust and connection to its trademark rabbit.

One version of the cereal box showed the rabbit looking straight ahead while the second showed the rabbit looking down. Brand trust increased by 16% and brand connection jumped 10% when the Trix Rabbit made eye contact with the participant.

On the flip side, perhaps this means that eye-contact from characters adorning healthier products could result in better brand connections there – and a natural desire from children to choose better-for-them options.

~ Meredith Aman, Account Supervisor, The S3 Agency


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