While the Simpsons might be a fictional family, the very real cereal, soda and doughnuts from their cartoon world are flying off real-world shelves.
For the past three weeks, 7-Eleven has transformed 12 of its convenience stores into caricatures of the Kwik-E-Mart widely recognized as a staple of the cartoon family's fictional town, as part of a promotion for the soon-to-be-released "The Simpsons Movie."
The stores have been carrying boxes of KrustyO's cereal, Buzz Cola, pink doughnuts and special edition "Radioactive Man" comic books. The convenience store also renamed its Slurpee frozen drinks "Squishees."
Though one key Simpsons beverage, Duff Beer, did not make it to the shelves, fans of the hit TV show seem to be jumping at the chance to buy the other once-fictional products. The number of customers to walk through the doors at these special stores has roughly doubled, as have have sales, according to the company.
Since the promotion started July 2, more than 960,000 cans of Buzz Cola have been guzzled up.
Maybe fans were washing down their pink "Sprinklicious" doughnuts, the type favored by Homer Simpson. The convenience store chain has sold more than 880,400 of the doughnuts nationally in the past three weeks.
The company has also sold 1.1 million Simpsons' Squishee-Slurpee cups.
In total, the convenience store chain has sold more than 3.4 million units of Simpsons merchandise and generated 64.3 million clicks on its Web site, through Sunday. The promotion ends July 31.
"The Simpsons Movie" tie-in has been phenomenal, and so much fun for our franchisees, employees, customers and "Simpsons" fans," Rita Bargerhuff, senior director of marketing at 7-Eleven, said in an e-mail.
"While we knew that our customers and 'Simpsons' fans were often the same people, it has been amazing to hear stories of how people would drive across state lines to see the life-size characters, try the Sprinklicious donuts, buy Buzz Cola and KrustyOs and chuckle at the amusing signs throughout the store," she wrote.
So are the "Simpsons" products helping 7-Eleven's bottom line?
It's is hard to say. The private company, based in Dallas, doesn't release detailed sales figures, but it did give ABC News a summary of some of its "Simpsons"-related sales.
And because the company branded only 12 of its 6,000 stores as Kwik-E-Marts, a doubling of sales in those locations really doesn't affect the company's overall sales. But the free publicity sure doesn't hurt.
There was a time when a successful movie promotion consisted of giving away plastic cups and toys with the purchase of a burger and fries.
While fast food tie-ins are still a major part of generating hype for a new film, today Hollywood seeks larger and more creative means to create buzz. Call it organic, viral or guerrilla marketing.
The "Simpsons" promotion further blurs the line between reality and fiction.
It used to be that marketers tried to work real-life products into movies and TV shows. While that still happens, today some highly known fake products are creeping into reality.
One of the first was the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., a seafood restaurant chain that came out of the hit 1994 movie "Forrest Gump." The first restaurant opened two years after the movie premiered. There are now 21 outlets in the United States and seven abroad, including locations in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Cancun, Mexico.