So, it’s surely escaped no one’s attention that an uppity Marks and Spencer (hereafter M & S) have got themselves in a right tizz over Aldi’s interpretation of their famous caterplillar cake, otherwise known as Colin the Caterpillar (you can probably tell what I think by my hardly neutral opening gambit).
In fact, they’ve more than got themselves in a tizz – they’ve gone nuclear, taking a legal case to the High Court, claiming that Aldi’s Cuthbert the Caterpillar infringes on their intellectual property rights and ‘rides on the coat-tails of their reputation’.
What utter, corporate, pretentious bollocks.
Someone in the upper echelons of M & S is – when the dust settles on all of this – going to get a pasting for this.
Because they couldn’t have done more to give Aldi a lift – free press, free marketing, free publicity.
Yes, Aldi have clearly copied Colin the Caterpillar, to the point where you’ve got to laugh, but so had Waitrose, with Cecil the Caterpillar; Asda with Clyde the Caterpillar; and Tesco with Curly the Caterpillar.
I didn’t see M & S go after any of these rivals.
You know what it smacks of? Snobbery. Sheer, unbridled, nose-in-the-air snobbery. Aldi were just that one rung down the social pecking order – a budget supermarket – that M & S felt compelled to act. And now they look snooty (or snotty).
And Aldi are now winning the publicity battle by a country mile. Memes are being shared across social media by people, AKA potential customers, all over the country.
People are posting pictures of undecorated swiss rolls as ‘shock nudes’ of Cuthbert the Caterpillar.
The hashtags #FreeCuthbert and #TeamCuthbert are doing the rounds.
M & S have had to respond to this with a meme of their own, so as not to look like the fusty old stick-in-the-muds they are.
But more than this, in terms of brand equity, this all gives Aldi a massive boost. They’re cheeky and they know it (don’t be suprised if a cracking long-copy press ad is released by them in the next few days). As a brand they have what my mum would call ‘chutzpah’.
They’re cheap and cheerful, with the emphasis on cheerful. They challenge the ‘big boys’ with their copycat products and low prices.
All of this will only give that cheeky personality a lift – thrusting it into the spotlight.
The publicity they’ve earned in the last week is worth millions. An integrated TV, outdoor, and radio campaign couldn’t even compete. Even Kevin the Carrot didn’t earn them this much exposure, and that was planned.
And as this rumbles on, M & S are going to look more and more knob-ish and Aldi are going to bask in the glow of this free marketing campaign. My guess is, if worst comes to worst, the uplift in sales will offset any court costs and possible fine.
Ultimately, this is a row over a glorified swiss roll, and who – other than M & S – bothers to have a legal barney over cake?
I can see this one rumbling on and on.
After all, this is not just any legal case…