Colin vs Cuthbert. M&S vs Aldi. Two caterpillars of chocolate sponge have seemed to divide the nation in recent months. But is there a winner, or are they simultaneously victorious off the back of this social media stunt?
Aldi seem to have a very good track record of two things: finding creative ways to ‘borrow’ branding, and being highly reactive and engaging on social media (having even won a few awards). These two features of the supermarket recently helped it to make headlines, as M&S threatened to take legal action against Aldi over its ‘too similar’ caterpillar cake named Cuthbert, believed to have been a copy of M&S’ ‘Colin.’ However, it wasn’t the threat of legal action alone that made this scenario so unique. Rather Aldi’s reaction via twitter, with its initial ‘#FreeCuthbert,’ tweet generating 75,000 likes. This alone shows the effect of knowing your audience; Aldi recognised that this hashtag could catch on and saw an opportunity to be talked about and gain positive feedback. Its social team saw that a popular product (across all supermarkets) could be used to spark a reaction from the public if talked about in the right manner. Humour seemed to be the perfect way to start a widespread dialogue. As well as involving other big supermarkets such as Waitrose, Sainsburys, Tesco and Asda, in a tweet which read: ‘Cecil, Wiggles, Curly, Clyde. We got you.’ The involvement of other supermarkets meant that shoppers loyal to other brands were now onside, feeling the need to defend their chosen caterpillar cake against M&S. Aldi was not just expanding its audience, but it was also creating more leverage against M&S. This was a risky strategy considering the potential PR disaster they could’ve been facing, given that M&S were seemingly paving the way for many of these other brands to take legal action against Aldi for copying product ideas. But this evidently paid off for Aldi, as they saw a record daily follower gain of almost 50,000 on the 17th April, amassing an overall gain of 134,000 followers gained (a 30% increase) since 15th April.
Aldi isn’t the only one to profit from this though, word on the street was that it was nigh-on-impossible to get a caterpillar cake from any supermarket during the peak of Colin vs Cuthbert. So at the very least, nobody involved can complain about sales! The only direct social media involvement from M&S was a tweet in response to Aldi’s rather cheeky attempt to end any legal action using charity. ‘Let’s raise money for charity, not lawyers,’ was the phrase Aldi used to call M&S to action, who swiftly responded with the counter-offer of its own idea: ‘kevinthecarrotcake,’ to go ahead with the proposed fundraiser. There must have been some PR experts involved in this very well-thought-out response from M&S. They didn’t give in to Aldi trying to publicly shame them into trading lawyer fees for charity work, but also saved face by accepting the possibility of a charity collaboration. Through this, M&S proved that it too has a sound understanding of its social media audience and could use humour in a similar way to Aldi, to gain coverage.
It’s safe to say, Aldi has used a smart social media strategy to engage with other UK supermarkets on the back of what is potentially quite an alarming scenario for them. As we’re yet to see what will come of the legal action from M&S, it’s tricky to say who has really come out on top. It should be noted, however, that Aldi definitely knows how to capture and grow an audience. And, boasting a 30% increase in followers in just over a month, we might all be able to learn a thing or two from their social team.