In a summer overflowing with blockbuster action films and sequels, one film rises above most in terms of anticipation--and marketing savvy. After all, the characters have been around for 18 years and are recognized worldwide. And despite being fictional, The Simpsons characters have taught us plenty about entrepreneurship, even if it's what not to do.
Real-life business owners could learn a few things from how The Simpsons Movie has been marketed as well. A dozen 7-11 stores have been retrofitted to look like Quik-E-Marts, complete with Squishees instead of Slurpees and Krusty-Os for sale. (Unfortunately, there's no Duff beer in the coolers.) The town of Springfield, Vermont, won a heated contest on USAToday.com to become the Springfield to host the film's premiere. And JetBlue, now "The Official Airline of Springfield," is promoting its new "Woo-Hoo, JetBlue!" aircraft featuring Homer's stubbled mug.
To honor our favorite dysfunctional family--and their neighbors, friends, enemies and acquaintances--we decided to go (unofficially) straight to the source for business advice. What does it take to run a business in a town where the mayor is corrupt, the police chief is beyond bumbling, the local mob runs everything, and the citizenry is one quirk shy of insane? Let's find out.
As the local purveyor of all that is Squishee, Apu and his convenience store are a Springfield favorite. Snacks and convenience items are always a great equalizer, whether you're a kid shoplifting a Playdude or an insatiably hungry snack machine like Homer. An immigrant from India, Apu supports his wife and octuplets while running a tight but always courteous ship. Even when he lays down the law against thieves like Snake, hooligans like Bart or messy pigs like Homer, Apu will always say, "Thank you, come again!"
Biggest Accomplishments: Turning a frozen old man into a freak show attraction; passing off tofu dogs as real hot dogs; raising eight children on a convenience store salary; renting rooftop garden space to Paul and Linda McCartney
Success Secret: "Courtesy is a convenience store operator's best weapon, as well as knowing the procedure for armed robbery and using the deadly arts to protect my reasonably priced merchandise."
Biggest Mistake: "Do not mix business with pleasure, even if the Squishee supplier has the divine face of a lotus flower. Your wife will most assuredly request prompt payment on your karmic debt."
Krusty the Clown
The Krusty empire
Krusty the Clown yukked his way to fame as a beloved children's entertainer, and along the way, he never met a licensing deal he didn't like. The money tends to come in handy when Krusty neglects to pay his taxes or gambles and boozes his money away. His top brands and businesses include the fast-food chain Krusty Burger, Kamp Krusty, Krustylu Studios, Krusty-O brand cereal and Krusty's Home Pregnancy Test. Krusty has had his share of bad times--his assistant Sideshow Bob framing him for robbery comes to mind--but he always lands on his clown-shoe-clad feet.
Biggest Accomplishments: Surviving cancellation; reuniting with his father, Rabbi Krustofski; retiring at least five times; staying out of jail (as much as he can)
Success Secret: "You gotta do it for the kids. All the gags, all the shilling, being treated like some dumb sap by the network executives, it's all for the booze and the floozies--um, I mean kids. Huh hu huh hu!"
Biggest Mistake: "Never trust nobody. Your best pal will shiv ya in the back when you're getting a pie in the face."
Stalwart Simpsons' neighbor Ned Flanders risked it all to pursue his dream: a store for the leftily inclined. It's a great niche, but just like Job in the Bible, Ned and his store have been beset by struggles. First, Ned nearly went bankrupt as Homer refused to send word-of-mouth business his way. Later, the store was looted after a hurricane.
Biggest Accomplishments: Surviving startup; competing with the neighboring Leftopolis; building a niche business on word-of-mouth marketing; supporting his family--and tithing to eight churches--with his business
Success Secret: "I always remember that on each dil-doodly-dollar I make at my store, it says 'In God We Trust.' Clean living, bowing to the will of the almighty and denial of all worldly pleasure is Ned's path to business treasure."
Biggest Mistake: "Ooh, that would be my angry outburst and pottymouth after the hurricane. God gave me an F-fiddly-F on that test."