Free Cuthbert – A Marketing Duel

Free Cuthbert - A Marketing DuelCheck Mate For M&S

In April 2021 we saw one of the best marketing gimmicks for a long time ‘Free Cuthbert’, Aldi spring boarding on the M&S iconic Colin The Caterpillar.

M&S created Colin The Caterpillar 30 years ago in 1990, and it has stood the test of time at just £7.00.

Trademark infringement, intellectual property call it what you will, we all know where Colin The Caterpillar lives.

When Aldi launched Cuthbert The Caterpillar the M&S legal team responded as you would expect.

The beauty of this story is the shear speed that team Aldi responded, using social media to tease M&S through their marketing.

‘This is not just food, this is M&S food’ is a slogan we all know from their TV adverts.

When Aldi used this in their social media response ‘this is not just any court case…’

Humour In Marketing Counts

Did Aldi know M&S would take legal action?

Probably, but using marketing and the power of social media created a new brand #FreeCuthbert.

This is very interesting as two retail competitors joking to each other on Twitter whilst a fairly serious legal issue is thrashed out.

Speed In Marketing Counts

Aldi took only a few hours to jump on social media to milk this with mimes, jokes and using M&S adverts to twist the sword.  One can only wonder if this was planned earlier?

We live it a very fast moving consumer society, sometimes the first one to speak us is the winner, even if there is a legal bill pending.

Speed in marketing counts, particularly in the new world of social media marketing.

It only takes seconds for a tweet to reach millions, far quicker than any previous form of marketing to date.

Responding to crisis quickly can make the difference to your brand winning or loosing.  With Aldi, they won.  They have not taken any market share from M&S, or any additional customers, but the brand has been strengthened.

Creativity In Marketing Counts

This is not just food, this is M&S food; a slogan we all know well from their internal advertising and their TV adverts.

Using the M&S slogan ‘this is not just..’ was very creative, and often this is what will bring you out on top.  There was nothing wrong with doing this in itself, as it is not using their slogan per say, it is using humour as the marketing vehicle.

Social media is a very new and powerful marketing tool, that when used right, can earn you pure gold in audience numbers.

Within 24hrs Aldi were at the top of Twitter (now X), skyrocketing their social media footprint.

Separating The Brands

This marketing duel was an interesting one as the brands are both similar but both different, but what do we mean by that?

M&S are considered to be a top tier retailer when it comes to quality, it is not just food…

Aldi have positioned themselves at the other end, offering quality at a more affordable price.

The two brands are in the same industry and in some ways do target the same customers, but they have different brands.  They are both communicating a different marketing message and the legal side of it could in some ways have been done on purpose.

On the other hand, nothing like this has happened before or since, so it could have just been a bad management decision on some level, that was given a marketing spin.

Whatever the case, it was certainly handed in a great way marketing wise, to gain a lot of publicity on the social side of things.

Have you considered does something similar to your competitors?  If they have a marketing angle or a marketing message, can you piggy back on that?

Marks & Spencers is a very well established business, that has Jewish roots dating back to 1884 in Leeds UK.

Aldi is still very well established, tracing its roots back to 1946 in Essen Germany.  It landed here in the UK in 1990 in Setchford (Birmingham) so does not have as established UK brand or marketing.

Both are strong companies but again, different brands targeting different customers.

Battle Of The Brands

2021 has been a challenging year for many, but looking at two retail giants clashing swords, the question spills over other brands.

Dominos Vs Pappa Johns

McDonalds Vs Burger King

Costa Vs Starbucks

Coca Cola Vs Pepsi – although this one has already been done via the taste test disaster.

The Pepsi taste test is still talked about in marketing circles, so in many ways an great bit of branding that has lasted decades.

Marketing for any retail company is going to be expensive and challenging, however maybe Aldi got this one right.  What branding angle can you take for your retail business that hopefully will not end up being a legal issue?

We aim to help UK companies whether in retail, food & beverage, or any market sector to get the right marketing message and the best marketing company for your brand.

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