You’re not crazy, those cereal box characters are definitely staring at you
Next time you walk down the cereal aisle, check to see if the characters on the boxes are staring back at you. According to a new study by researchers at Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab and Yale University, Captain Crunch, Tony the Tiger and the Trix rabbit are all trying to make eye contact.
The researchers evaluated 65 types of cereal and 86 different box characters from 10 grocery stores in New York and Connecticut. Each character was analyzed by the angle of its gaze, 4 feet from the shelf. This is thought to be the standard distance shoppers stand from shelves.
They found characters on boxes marketed to children made eye contact with kids at a downward angle, while boxes marketed to adults made eye contact with adult shoppers at a straight or slightly upward angle. Boxes geared toward children were placed on bottom shelves and those for adults were put on the top shelves.
The researches then studied whether making eye contact with a character would make a person feel more connected to the brand. They showed 63 people pictures of a Trix cereal box. Some people were shown pictures of a box with the Trix rabbit looking straight at them, and others were shown a box with the rabbit looking down.
The findings showed that characters who make eye contact increase positive feelings toward the brand. Brand trust was up 16% and a feeling of connection was 28% higher when people made eye contact with the rabbit.
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