Feel free to download and use any of the graphics, illustrations, videos, and resources on the page for educational purposes and with credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Eye contact helps humans to build trust and confidence with others, but does this relationship extend to our favorite brands? In this study, we first aimed to show that cereal spokes-characters make eye contact with consumers by measuring the angle of the cereal characters’ eye gaze. This helps to determine if incidental eye contact with children is possible as they walk by. Next, we examined whether or not eye contact influences one’s preference or choice in cereal.
In the first study, we measured 65 cereal boxes with a total of 86 different spokes-characters. Of these totals, 57 of the characters were directed at children, classified by child-oriented TV marketing and commercials. The other 29 cereal box characters were directed toward adults. Using trigonometry, we assessed the angle and height of these characters’ eye gaze to determine the necessary height of the consumer for he or she to make eye contact with the cereal box character.
Results showed that the inflection angle of spokes-characters’ gaze on children’s cereal boxes was slightly downward (-9.67°) while the angle on adult cereal boxes was slightly raised (0.43°). In addition, children’s cereals tended to be placed on the bottom two shelves of a display, while adult-oriented cereals were placed on the top two shelves. These results support our hypothesis that the gaze of a cereal’s spokesperson tend to make eye contact with the intended target market at four feet away.
The second part of this study aimed to examine whether eye contact with cereal spoke-characters increased consumer preference for these products. For this study, the eyes of the character on a box of cereal were manipulated using Photoshop CC (Adobe 2013) to either look down and away from viewers or to make direct eye contact with them. 63 students at a large university were randomly assigned to one of the two conditions and asked to rate the cereal box on several dimensions including trust, connection, and attention. Results showed that participants in the direct eye-contact condition felt more connected to the brand and were more likely to choose that box over competing brands.
The results from these studies have several implications in terms of how consumers respond to marketing techniques. First, the use of eye-contact can be used as an advertising technique that can help companies improve consumer feelings of connection to a brand. This technique is particularly important when marketing towards children who are especially vulnerable to influence. Although marketers could exploit this vulnerability, they could also use it to improve dietary habits by promoting healthy cereals.
Musicus, Aviva, Aner Tal, and Brian Wansink (2014). Eyes in the Aisles: Why is Cap’n Crunch Looking Down at My Child? Environment & Behavior, 47(7), 715-733. doi: 10.1177/0013916514528793