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

breakfast, family meals, kid-friendly, trends, in the news


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jbyrd898 jbyrd898

We dont normally buy cereal, but I noticed if we go down that aisle, my son really wants one.

OliviaW. OliviaW.

My kids don't get topick out the cereal. I do that. 

the4m... the4mutts

Nope. My kids know damn good and well that we don't buy boxed cereal. We buy the bags. And we get 1 healthy, and 1 junk bag. They also don't get to ask for what they want, unless I ask for their opinion. They're kids. They would eat choc-o-mateys until their eyes popped out if we let them.

LeeshaE LeeshaE

I only buy organic cereal so I let my son pick what he likes but I know he's picking on taste preference because there are no cartoons on the boxes. I let him pick because it helps enforce healthy eating choices.

ashjo85 ashjo85

This is not a new thing. The pricier, popular cereals have always been ALWAYS eye-level. The healthy stuff is at the very top, and the Malt-O-Meal bags are at the bottom. We always hit the bag cereal, and like Mutts, I buy them a fun cereal, and mini wheats for school days. (I do buy Chex for myself, but that's for the gluten-free ness).

nonmember avatar Jan

A new study? I read about this marketing trick a decade ago.

justi... justinnaimee

They had to study this? They could have just asked an advertising agency who would have told them that's exactly how it happens and that's the point.

iamna... iamnameless

My children prefer boring "adult" cereal like corn flakes and raisin brand. I get the sugary kid stuff forr myself.

nonmember avatar Jena

Same for me iamnameless. My kids go for the cornflakes and raisin bran too. I like Life and Frosted Toast Crunch.

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