Fri, April 04 2014

What Cap’n Crunch Can Teach You About Fundraising

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fun stuff • Marketing essentials •

Have you ever felt like you were being watched in the supermarket?

In a new study from Cornell Food and Brand Lab, researchers found that characters featured on kids’ cereal boxes make incidental eye contact with children and cereals aimed at adults make incidental eye contact with adult shoppers. Cereals presumably marketed to children (think Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops, Trix) were found on lower shelves, and the gaze of the characters on these cereal boxes look downward at an angle of 9.67 degrees. 

This is probably not too surprising, but they took things a step further. Researchers asked a group of volunteers to rate their feelings about a brand based on the character featured on a cereal box. Study participants were randomly shown one of two versions of a Trix cereal box. One version featured the rabbit looking straight at the individual, in another, the rabbit had a downward gaze. Can you guess what happened?

People expressed a stronger connection to the brand when the rabbit made eye contact. Brand trust was also found to be 16% higher.  Participants even stated they preferred Trix, compared to another cereal, when that silly rabbit made eye contact.

Eyes in the Aisles Cartoon

So what does this have to do with nonprofit fundraising? Here are a few important reminders from the cereal aisle:

Know your target audience.
Think about the people you are trying to reach. Everything about your marketing efforts should speak to their unique experiences and values. One size does not fit all, so if you have multiple audiences, segment and tailor your approach accordingly.

Position yourself in their line of sight.
Are your cereal boxes on the right shelves? Understand the habits of your target audience and how to find them when they’re most likely to take action. If your target audience commutes via carpool each day, placards on the train aren’t going to make much impact. That’s somewhat obvious—the trick is having a deep understanding of where and when to reach your prospects. If you don’t have this intel, make it a priority to get it.

Make eye contact.
Are you looking your donors in the eye? Do this both figuratively and literally with your fundraising materials. In your emails, in advertisements, and on your website and donation pages, feature strong images of faces looking directly into the camera. Strike an emotional chord with your donors and make it easier for them to connect with your campaign.

How are you making eye contact with your donors? Share your ideas in the comments below, and—just for fun, tell us which cereal is your favorite. (Confession:  I’m partial to Apple Jacks as a guilty pleasure.)

Want to learn more about the science behind effective fundraising? Download our free guide, Lisa Simpson for Nonprofits.

Image courtesy of Cornell Food and Brand Lab

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