Surely by now you will have seen the furore over the Colin The Caterpillar cake?
It is a textbook example of how NOT to play the media game by one party and then how to have an absolute field day with it by the rest.
It began last week (mid April depending on when you read this) after the lovely folk at M&S launched a lawsuit against Aldi. As I write this on Tuesday 20th, the lawsuit continues.
Note how I mention the “lovely” M&S. This debacle could well damage that brand.
Anyway, back to the caterpillar.
This comes down to an Intellectual Property (IP) claim, which is actually very serious, normally.
It seems that Aldi, along with others who have since jumped swiftly onto the passing bandwagon, had got into trouble over their caterpillar cake, one Cuthbert the Caterpillar, herein referred to as Cuthbert.
In a nutshell, M&S says Aldi’s “Cuthbert” infringes its trademark and is “riding on the coat-tails” of the success of its cake. Ironically, this is EXACTLY what all the other retailers were about to do with some savvy PR and social media management.
You see, it was escalating pretty swiftly already, with M&S lodging a High Court claim against Aldi when things began to take a rather comic turn…
Betting on their “challenger” brand status and the goold old David v Goliath narrative, Aldi began a #FreeCuthbert campaign and began merrily mocking their established authority rivals.
The opening salvo was a classic;
This is not just any court case, this is… #FreeCuthbert
— Aldi Stores UK (@AldiUK) April 15, 2021
“This is not just any court case, this is…”
One can imagine the back and forth between the legal teams and the marketing teams over this. “Do we dare? Can we? Oh come on, what have we got to lose?”
That was of course crucial, they were the plucky underdog.
Now, one might expect that M&S would retreat into panic mode but to everyone’s joy, they began to fight back but crucially, with humour!
They responded with the firefighting “This is fine” meme, depicting their social media team in panic mode but with cheery good natured humour leading the way.
Our social team over the weekend: pic.twitter.com/G2DEM5D6iu
— M&S (@marksandspencer) April 19, 2021
Before you knew it, other retailers were chiming in, eager or perhaps desperate to join in the fun, some saw their late arrival to the party as a little too contrived.
As we speak, there has been further developments, with Aldi reaching out to M&S offering a truce of sorts and even suggesting that they bring back Cuthbert in a limited edition form to help raise money for charity.
Hey @marksandspencer can Colin and Cuthbert be besties? We’re bringing back a limited edition Cuthbert and want to donate profits to cancer charities including your partners @macmillancancer & ours @teenagecancer. Let’s raise money for charity, not lawyers #caterpillarsforcancer.
— Aldi Stores UK (@AldiUK) April 20, 2021
Even better, not just any charity, M&S’s partner charity, Macmillan Cancer Support, as well as its own partner charity, the Teenage Cancer Trust.
This is genius!
Aldi is playing the good guy card so well that M&S are being publicly pressured to cave on a legitimate legal case!
Will they cave? That remains to be seen. However, M&S did manage to get another dig in suggesting that yes, they would be all for that as they do LOVE a charity campaign themselves (we’re not the baddies here) but they kindly suggested that Aldi uses “your own character. How about #kevinthecarrotcake ?”
Hey @AldiUK we love a charity idea (Colin's been a BIG fundraiser for years). We just want you to use your own character. How about #kevinthecarrotcake ? That idea's on us… and we promise we won't do Keith 😉
— M&S (@marksandspencer) April 20, 2021
As I finish this column, there have been no further developments but whatever the outcome, talk about how to have your cake and eat it!