60-Second Science

Cereal Box Characters Look Down at Kids

Tony the Tiger and his kid-friendly cohort tend to gaze downward whereas the Quaker Oats guy stares straight ahead at thee. Karen Hopkin reports


When you walk down the cereal aisle, do you ever get the feeling that Cap’n Crunch is looking at you? Well, that’s just silly. He’s actually looking at your kids. That’s according to a study by Brian Wansink and colleagues at Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab. [Aviva Musicus, Aner Tal and Brian Wansink, Eyes in the Aisles: Why Is Cap’n Crunch Looking Down at My Child?]
The researchers wondered whether the characters on cereal boxes actually make eye contact. And whether that could influence a shopper’s choice of breakfast fare. So they hit the cereal aisle. And they found that kids’ cereals tend to be placed on lower shelves than grownup offerings. What’s more, Tony the Tiger and his kid-friendly pals tend to gaze downward, while the Quaker Oats guy stares straight ahead.
In a second study, adult volunteers were handed a box of Trix. On some boxes, the rabbit looked straight ahead, on others, he gazed away. When asked what they thought of Trix, it seems that folks felt more connected to the brand, and said they preferred that cereal over others, when the rabbit looked them in the eye.
The results, which appear in the Journal of Environment and Behavior, suggest that certain tricks are not just for kids…but maybe for marketers, too.
—Karen Hopkin  
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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