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'Thank You for Loitering'

(August 2007) posted on Mon Aug 27, 2007

How Dallas-based Sonntag helped bring The Simpsons' Kwik-E-Mart to Life.

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By Angela Prues

Apu Nahasapeemapetilon might be the world’s most famous convenience store owner, in spite of his two-dimensional existence and lack of actual land ownership. Yet, somehow, 11 of Apu’s Kwik-E-Marts across the country were "built" from existing 7-Eleven structures plus styrene and vinyl.

The creation of the Kwik-E-Mart stores generated quite a stir among The Simpsons fans and marked one of the most innovative movie promotions ever for the TV show’s big-screen debut this past July. For 7-Eleven, Twentieth-Century Fox, and a digital-printing company, the marketing ploy resulted in a winning combination.

Selling more Squishees

Tracy Locke, a Dallas-based marketing firm, came up with the store-changeover idea in an initial brainstorming operation. 7-Eleven, Tracy Locke’s client, had worked with Fox on movie promotions before, but this job was inherently special. "Many of us have been Simpsons fans for 18 years, so we knew we had to do something-something big," says Sterling Hayman of Tracy Locke. The marketing team worked its way up the 7-Eleven corporate ladder, spending nearly a year convincing all levels of management that converting everything from 7-Eleven branding to its animated other, Kwik-E-Mart, would indeed prove to be a successful campaign.

"Given that Kwik-E-Mart is a stereotype of 7-Eleven stores, we knew that there was some risk involved if the transformation wasn’t pulled off perfectly," says Hayman. Dedicated to the idea, the design team created mock-ups of how the stores would look, made sales manuals, and garnered input from customers as well as franchisee owners. Ultimately, 7-Eleven fully supported the campaign that mocked its own existence; appreciating that being the butt of the joke could indeed sell more Slurpees or, well, Squishees.

The store conversions would involve hand-painted exterior walls to resemble the yellow bricks of the fictitious Springfield store, screenprinted 3-D characters loitering around the stores, and digitally printed graphics that converted professional 7-Eleven displays and grammatically correct store signage to un-business-like and surreal Simpsons speak. Plus, 7-Eleven would actually sell Krusty-O’s cereal, Buzz Cola, and Radioactive Man comic books-as well as "Today’s Pastries" offered at "Tomorrow’s Prices."