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Olive Garden's Garfield-inspired menu dishes up a safe but forgettable marketing ploy

If we're not horrified by what has come from your marketing department, you're not trying hard enough.

Garfield Movie trailer
Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing

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It was a marriage made in the funny pages – Olive Garden, purveyor of your favorite warmed-through Italian food, and Garfield, a lasagna-consuming marketing monster that cannot be stopped, teamed up to promote the latest Garfield movie. While the idea makes perfect sense on paper, the results were the kind of bland marketing tie-in that we’ll forget about almost as quickly as we’ve forgotten about Garfield’s latest movie.

The best that Olive Garden could come up with for their end of the deal was a Garfield Approved Menu which consisted primarily of, you guessed it, lasagna. For their main dish, fans could order the lasagna on its own or as part of the Tour of Italy platter while dessert was dubbed “chocolate lasagna” which keen diners will recognize as being a silly rebranding of chocolate cake.

Now, we like the excuse to binge eat carbs as much as the next person, but we’re stuck asking ourselves what the point of the promotion even was. It was so bland and forgettable that we didn’t even hear about it until after it was over. The entries in the Garfield Approved Menu were severely limited. Are we truly expected to believe that the feline avatar of gluttony and excess would limit their chosen menu to just a handful of items? There is a lesson that Olive Garden needs to take from Chuck E. Cheese, a true pioneer of the ill-advised film tie-in – Go big or go home.

You might be asking what more Olive Garden could have done to promote the Garfield movie and to that, we can only be disappointed in your lack of creativity. Deliver something we’ll never forget and make everything on the menu lasagna flavored. Breadsticks? Lasagnafied. Salad? Doused in cheese and sauce. Your choice of soda? Replaced by carbonated lasagna water.

Do we want to eat these things? Absolutely not, but we would because we’re not cowards and the rest of America surely feels the same. It wouldn’t even be the weirdest thing we’ve tasted in the course of our jobs, but, more importantly, it would be memorable. By next week, we’ll have forgotten the Olive Garden and Garfield promotional tie-in even happened (and we’ll probably forget that The Garfield Movie happened the week after that) but we would always remember the first time we tried a tiramisu that was layered with cheese and coffee-infused pasta and that is an experience that Olive Garden's lack of vision has robbed us of.

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