Over the weekend, 7-Eleven turned a dozen stores into Kwik-E-Marts, the fictional convenience stores in The Simpsons, in the latest example of marketers making life imitate art.
Those stores and most of the 6,000-plus other 7-Elevens in North America will sell items that until now existed only on television: Buzz Cola, KrustyO’s cereal and Squishees, the slushy drink knockoff of Slurpees.
The retail chain and FreshWorks, an Omnicom Group virtual-agency network led by Tracy Locke, Dallas, created more than 1,000 customized in-store displays and signs to bring the cartoon world to life. With the kind of detail reserved for Hollywood back lots, the transformation is all-encompassing — from exterior walls and signs to store fixtures and employee uniforms and name tags. Even donation canisters and ATMs will be made over with Krusty’s Kids and First Bank of Springfield logos. Stores will be made over by 6 a.m. July 1 in the U.S. and July 3 in Canada. Completing the environment, nine life-size characters from the show will be placed in and out of each store, including Homer, Marge, Lisa, Maggie, store owner Apu, Chief Wiggum and Comic Book Guy. In addition, senior citizen Jasper will be hiding in the bagged ice freezer, and Bart and Milhouse will hang out on each stores’ roof. KrustyO’s frosted cereal, one of several products that will go on sale to further blur reality and fiction.
Meanwhile for those who can set aside the wonder of cross-platform brand marketing, Chris Radtke at UGO has a video tour. Perhaps this will have to stand in for the real things, as apparently the stores are quite crowded
But last night, a stop into the “Kwik E Mart” on 42nd street in Manhattan just after Midnight offered a near mob scene more appropriate to Times Square, three blocks away. The store manager, who like his employees sported a Kwik E Mart uniform (he got to be Apu), said that he has never had this kind of crowd in the store… ever. And The Simpsons branded stuff was a big focus. There was also traditional traffic (I was buying Pellegrino), but the discussion over whether to buy the $4.59 boxes of KrustyOs (limit one per customer) or the Simpsons watches were going fast and furious. (There was only one of the Simpson phrase players left.) And customers were disappointed, asking for Buzz Cola (corrected) that was long sold out, though a new delivery late in the week was promised. Ironically, I was on CNBC in the morning discussion product placement in films and never really thought about this stunt, which was similar, but much more successful to New Line’s efforts with White Castle a couple of years ago. The difference, of course, is that The Simpsons is a brand of great standing for well over a decade.
We’re hoping to make our own pilgrimage very soon, and will have all the details.