Convenience stores become Kwik-E-Marts

Over the weekend, 7-Eleven turned a dozen stores into Kwik-E-Marts, the fictional convenience stores of “The Simpsons” fame, 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, Krusty O’s cereal and Squishees, the slushy drink knockoff of Slurpees.

It’s all part of a campaign to hype the July 27 opening of “The Simpsons Movie,” the bigscreen debut for the long-running Fox ‘toon, which loves to lampoon 7-Eleven as a store that sells all kinds of unhealthy snacks and is run by a man with a thick Indian accent.

For Fox and Gracie Films, the stunt is a cheap way to call attention to their movie, since 7-Eleven is bearing all the costs, which executives of the retail chain put at somewhere in the single millions.

At 7-Eleven, they’re hoping it shows the ubiquitous chain has a trait seen in few corporations — the ability to laugh at themselves.

“We thought if you really want to do something different, the idea of actually changing stores into Kwik-E-Marts was over the top but a natural,” said Bobbi Merkel, an executive for of 7-Eleven’s advertising agency, FreshWorks. “It shows they get the joke.”

The monthlong promotion has been rumored a long time — it’s hard to keep a secret known by so many suppliers and franchisees — but 7-Eleven managed to keep the locations of the stores quiet until early Sunday morning. That’s when the exteriors of 11 U.S. stores and one in Canada were flocked in industrial foam and given new signs to replicate the animated look of Kwik-E-Marts.

The U.S. locations where a 7-Eleven store was transformed into a Kwik-E-Mart are New York; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Burbank, Calif.; Los Angeles; Henderson, Nev.; Orlando, Fla.; Mountain View, Calif.; Seattle; and Bladensburg, Md.

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