Beware: Your Family's Favorite Cereal Has a Sneaky Way of Making You Buy It

Cereal boxesHave you been to your local supermarket and had your child stop in her tracks to stare longingly at a box of her favorite cereal? Apparently, it's not a Pavlovian response to what's inside -- it's our kids being mesmerized by the characters on the package looking right into their eyes.

Conveniently, these tantalizing boxes of breakfast goodness just happen to be at eye level, begging our children to pay attention to them. This, according to a new study, is all on purpose.


Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab studied how cereal packaging is created to seduce both young and old. The researchers found that cereal box characters are frequently designed to make eye contract with kids, with many looking down from store shelves to engage the youngest of shoppers. Adult cereals have mascots too, but since the boxes are typically placed higher on shelves, they look straight ahead instead of down. Those stares don't just increase sales, but also brand loyalty, according to the study.

You know what? I would never have noticed this marketing manipulation had it not been pointed out. It's subliminal and that's the point: to subtly lure us into grabbing the product from the shelf and throwing into our basket.

But the thing that bothers me is that we are conditioning our kids to let these tactics influence their choices. My own daughter isn't into cereal, so this isn't an issue for us. But I remember when I was a kid spending way too much time gazing back at those enticing boxes of cereal staring at me and then begging my parents to buy the most sugary one of the bunch.

Do you let your kids choose their own cereal? Do they gravitate toward the boxes with characters that 'look at' them?

Image via Emily Bee Follow The White Rabbit/Flickr

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