Art Here and Now
Daring creativity happening now around the world
Real Life Kwik-e-Mart – National Installation Art?

Kwik-E-Mart, Seattle

Kwik-E-Mart, Marge, Seattle

For the past few months, 12 7-Elevens in the United States were converted to real life Kwik-E-Marts, the very 7-Eleven-like stores featured in The Simpsons. The 12 stores have outsides changed to Kwik-E-Mart logos and colors, staff inside wears Kwik-E-Mart shirts, and the store sells Squishees, Buzz Cola, Krusty-O’s and pink doughnuts.

Before this actually happened, I always felt 7-Eleven was a pretty buttoned down corporation. I could imagine them replying to this with “we wouldn’t want to dilute our brand.” It’s nice that they didn’t.

To turn this into great installation art instead of purely an adventurous marketing scheme, they could have used less “The Simpsons” logos plastered everywhere, and just let the store be as it is in the show, covert and subtle. Of course, making installation art wasn’t the purpose, it was just a side effect. The marketing part worked like a charm though: stores converted to Kwik-E-Marts doubled their sales.

Another aspect of this marketing experiment is that some Arab and Indian owners and employees are offended by the Apu stereotype, and feel it goes too far, regardless of their increased sales. This is an understandable viewpoint. But beyond the surface stereotypes, Apu has been the focus of many shows all on his own, and beyond the surface, he is actually a smart, complex, interesting character. The same goes for many of the other stereotypical characters on the show (Flanders immediately comes to mind). They are initially shown the way many people expect, but over time these expectations are turned on their heads, to reveal them as individuals, beyond the stereotypes.

That debate will go on, as it should. Either way, like Cinderella at midnight, the Kwik-E-Marts turn back to normal 7-Elevens after July 31st.

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posted by Trout Monfalco

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