Science and Tech


Why Are Cereal Mascots Staring At You?

A study has found most cereal box mascots make direct eye contact with shoppers. This increases brand loyalty and influences purchasing decisions.
Posted at 1:55 PM, Apr 03, 2014

Ever notice how the mascots on cereal boxes have the same creepy stare? Well, science says there's a reason for it — and might explain why the cereal aisle has become such a kids trap.

According to a recent Cornell study, the angle at which cereal box characters stare has a lot to do with convincing shoppers to buy the product and creating brand loyalty.

"I'm cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs." (Via General Mills)

The researchers looked at about 65 different cereals. The characters marketed on children's cereal boxes tended to look downward to make eye contact; whereas, those marketed on adult cereals looked straight ahead.

That's because the boxes are already strategically placed on shelves where their intended targets are more likely to see them — sugary kids' cereals down low and healthy adult cereals up high. (Via ABC)

In fact, the magnetic gaze was a major factor explaining how shoppers felt about a particular brand.

Businessweek reports the researchers observed college students were 16 percent more likely to trust a brand whose cereal box illustrated a mascot making eye contact versus one with a mascot looking away.

The researchers suggest these findings could help cereal companies not only successfully market their products but also influence — or hypnotize? — children to make healthier choices.

"What they can do is take kids' cereals and use the same thing to make healthy cereals more compelling to kids. Put Scooby Doo on a healthy cereal and have Scooby look right at 'em." (Via YouTube / Brian Wansink)

For those whose children have become victim to the cereal stares, the researchers leave you with some friendly advice: "If you are a parent who does not want your kids to go 'cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs,' avoid taking them down the cereal aisle." (Via CNET)