Have you ever paid attention to the characters on the box of your child's favorite cereal? The next time you're at the store, head to the cereal aisle and give them a look, especially their eyes. One thing you'll notice is that they're not looking at you. Their eyes are looking down, at your child.
A recent study out of Cornell University determined that cereal box design and placement is aimed at making a connection with your child. Boxes are typically placed on the middle shelves, not the top shelves where the adult cereals live. They also determined that the eyes of the spokes-characters were looking down at an average of 9.6 degrees, so they can make eye contact with children.
Researchers at Cornell's Food and Brand Lab studied the characters to see if they were designed to make eye contact. They looked at 85 different characters in 10 different stores. They discovered that cereals marketed to children did in fact make eye contact with the average child. This was accomplished through a combination of shelf placement and character design.
Researchers also discovered characters on adult cereals made eye contact with adults. These products were placed on upper shelves, and the characters eyes looked straight ahead, not down like the children's cereals.
Researchers also conducted a second study to see if this eye contact had any effect on building feelings of trust and connection to the brand. They used a test panel of 63 people and had them look at 1 of 2 versions of a Trix box. One version of the box had the rabbit looking down, and the other had the rabbit looking straight ahead.
The study found that brand trust was 16% higher, and that connection to the brand was 28% higher when the rabbit made eye contact. The study subjects also reported they liked Trix more when the rabbit made eye contact.
Product design is big business, and there is a lot of science behind it. For good or bad, it's immportant for you to realize that product packaging is meant to invoke a response. Pay attention to what the food contains, and not the character on the cover, and you'll be making big steps in having a healthier diet.