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New Study Says Trick Behind Marketing Cereal To Kids Is ‘In The Eyes’

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If you are a parent whose child whines, begs and pleads to get you to buy sugary cereals at the grocery store, they are reacting exactly how marketers plan.

According to a recent study from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, cereals that are marketed to children are strategically placed on a lower shelf than adult cereals. A second key finding from the same study is that the colorful cartoon characters that appear on the box often look downward toward children to make eye contact whereas adult cereal look almost straight ahead.

To examine the influence of cereal box spokes-characters, reseachers first evaluated 65 types of cereal and 86 different spokes-characters in 10 different grocery stores in New York and Connecticut. 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.

In a second study researchers examined how much eye contact influences feelings of trust and connection with a brand.

“There is a lot of research on the positive influence of eye contact in building trust between people,” said Aner Tal, a researcher on the study from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. “We wanted to see if that translated to characters on cereal boxes and consumers’ decisions in the cereal aisle.”

Participants in the study were shown one of two versions of a box of Trix cereal. In one version the rabbit was looking straight ahead at the viewer and in the other the rabbit looked down.

The conclusion from the findings show that brand trust was 16% higher and the feeling of connection to the brand was 28% higher when the rabbit made eye contact.

So what is the take-away from this study for parents?

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

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