Researchers at Cornell University have carried out a study on product placement in grocery store aisles, and discovered something rather unsettling.
The faces depicted on cereal boxes are designed to make eye contact with anyone looking at it, especially your children.
Keen-eyed shoppers may have already noticed that adult oriented cereals are placed on higher shelves, while the sugary cereals with cartoon mascots are placed lower down, where children are more like to see and reach for them.
But in the recent study on the topic, it was discovered that there is more nuance to marketing breakfast cereals that just shelf placement.
People and characters printed on the packaging often look straight ahead on adult cereals, but slightly downward on children’s cereals. In either case, the intention is for these images to make eye contact with their intended target market.
The strategy appears to be quite effective, too. Researchers asked 63 individuals to view a box of cereal with a cartoon rabbit on the front, which was either looking directly at the viewer, or looking downward.
In a large majority of the cases, the box that made eye contact invoked brand trust and a feeling of connection to the brand, in contrast to the other box.
For shoppers who feel uncomfortable with this sales technique, there are steps you can take to circumvent these types of efforts. Small children can be placed in the buggy, closer to adult eye level, and away from the boxes vying for their attention. Or, you may choose not to walk down the cereal aisle when shopping with children by your side.