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What can we learn from #FreeCuthbert?

Posted on April 21, 2021

 

Last week, it was announced that Marks & Spencer had lodged a claim against discount supermarket Aldi over similarities between the two retailers’ caterpillar cakes, named Colin and Cuthbert, respectively. Since the news broke out, social media has been in a hysterical frenzy thanks to the quick-wittedness of Aldi UK’s social media accounts.

Colin vs. Cuthbert

According to the BBC, the intellectual property claim from M&S is due to the extreme similarities between Aldi’s Cuthbert and its own caterpillar cake Colin, with the retailer claiming that the likeness was causing customers to believe the cakes were of the same standard, meaning that Aldi was benefiting from the reputation of M&S.

This claim is rather bizarre on several accounts – firstly, due to Aldi actually stopping selling the cake back in February; secondly, as all big British supermarkets sell a caterpillar cake of their own (including Asda’s Clyde, Tesco’s Curly and Waitrose’s Cecil, to name only a few) and thirdly, as the two retailers arguably have an entirely different customer base, not least due to their pricing being on opposite ends of the scale.

Taking to Twitter

In light of the news, Aldi addressed the issue on Twitter last Thursday evening in an extremely tongue-in-cheek way, poking fun at the famous M&S TV adverts:

With the addition of a simple hashtag, #FreeCuthbert, the caterpillar cake’s court case soon went viral, with thousands liking, retweeting and sharing across all social media platforms about Cuthbert’s quest for freedom. With engagement through the roof, Aldi’s social media team didn’t stop there, posting a whole host of humorous tweets well into the weekend. Here’s just two of the many tweets:

Using a combination of memes, witty remarks and engagement with other brands (including a cheeky question to Dulux asking how to delete tweets, referencing the paint company’s social media blunder last week), and rallying rival supermarkets with caterpillar cakes of their own together, #FreeCuthbert took over social media.

What does #FreeCuthbert show us?

Aldi’s Twitter took what could’ve been a damaging story against the supermarket and turned it into a ripe source of engagement, bringing thousands of people on their side in the process. In contrast, M&S’s own social media channels stayed silent, only breaking the silence on Monday with a similarly light-hearted approach:

This is yet another example of big brands turning what could be considered a controversial topic to their advantage by getting people talking – and more importantly, laughing – on social media, in a similar way to Weetabix’s famous baked beans tweet back in February.

While on a serious note, Aldi may find itself having to pay up, depending on the outcome of the case, the positive brand exposure it’s generated for itself may, arguably, counteract the loss. Indeed, it may not just be Aldi that benefits from the #FreeCuthbert movement either, as an eagle-eyed Twitter user spotted Tesco moving its own caterpillar cake to a prime spot on its shelves the day after the hashtag was born:

#FreeCuthbert shows that sometimes, taking a mischievous and humorous approach to social media can seriously benefit a brand, and keeping an eye on viral social media posts and trends can be just as advantageous, as the actions of Tesco’s merchandising team shows. Have a chat with our team at Engage Web if you’d like to learn more about putting out engaging content for your business.

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