McCann Manchester


Client: Aldi
Product: Cuthbert the Caterpillar Cake
Title: #FreeCuthbert
Media: Social Media Posts
Country: United Kingdom
Date Of Campaign: 15/04/2021 to 20/04/2021

Background: If you’re from the UK and you’ve had your 4th Birthday party, it’s very likely you’ve eaten a Marks and Spencer’s Colin the Caterpillar Cake. Colin, a chocolate-covered swiss-roll decorated to look like a loveable larva, has been a children’s birthday party staple for over 30 years, filling the mouths of kids and emptying the wallets of their parents since 1990.With the success of Colin, it was only natural that other supermarkets, including the so-called ‘big 4’ [Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons], followed suit and started selling similar caterpillar cakes. Tesco has Curly the Caterpillar, Asda has Clyde, Sainsbury’s has Wiggles and Morrison’s has Morris. Aldi, meanwhile, has Cuthbert. For years, all was well between Colin, Cuthbert, Curly and co. There was Swiss-roll neutrality. But recently, that all changed, when Marks & Spencer’s decided that Cuthbert’s invite to the caterpillar party was revoked.On the morning of 15th April 2021, Marks and Spencer’s launched legal action against Aldi over a claim that it infringed a trademark on their Colin the Caterpillar Cake. Papers filed at the High Court stated that the design of Aldi’s Cuthbert the Caterpillar was too close a resemblance to their much-loved Colin. Despite the other supermarkets all having their own caterpillar creations, Marks & Spencer’s stated that it wanted to ‘protect Colin’s reputation’ and that it was Cuthbert who was ‘riding on the coattails’ of their caterpillar’s success. Cuthbert was, they alleged, the copy-caterpillar.

Idea: Our goal was to get the moral backing and secure the goodwill of the public. We needed people on our side. And we could only do that by being nimble, shrewd and humorous on social media. From the very first tweet that harpooned M&S’ famous tagline [This is not just any court case, this is...#freecuthbert], the campaign gripped the nation and sparked debate. As quickly as you can say ‘caterpillar cake’, #freecuthbert was on the news, being debated on radio, and being picked-up online. #freecuthbert spread like fire across social, instantly inspiring original content across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, as the public came out en-masse to join the #freecuthbert movement.But that was just the start. The response to just a single tweet was so overwhelmingly positive, that we saw an opportunity to go further. It appeared that this caterpillar had legs. Over the next 24 hours, #freecuthbert turned from a single tweet into an agile, super-responsive social campaign. And it all played out in the best place possible – on peoples’ phones. As our #freecuthbert tweets continued, as did the support of the nation. Protests were held outside Marks and Spencer; Cuthbert ‘appeared’ on TV comedy panel shows; memes, parodies and memorabilia were made; brands, charities and celebrities added their voices to the ever-growing #freecuthbert chants. After just 48 hours, and just a handful of carefully crafted tweets, we were able to turn a potentially bad news story overwhelmingly in our favour. #freecuthbert had won the hearts, minds and mouths of the public, while M&S were left rueing their decision to go public with the announcement. Much thanks to the swell of positivity from the public, a Limited-Edition Cuthbert the Caterpillar Cake was restocked in Aldi stores in May, with all profits going to our charity partners, Teenage Cancer Trust. We asked other supermarkets to join our #CaterpillarsForCancer campaign, with all profits from sales of Curly, Colin, Cuthbert and co. helped the fight against cancer). Four other supermarkets joined the cause, raising thousands for charity.

Results: - Trended #1 in the UK on Twitter, twice- +500,000,000 social impressions- Increased Aldi’s Twitter following from 440k to 570k, almost 30% in three days- #freecuthbert 35,000,000+ organic views on TikTok- +2.5m interactions- Facebook reach of over 35m- 15% engagement on social- Facebook page views grew 2321%- News sentiment: Aldi +8.5% M&S -134%- £0 media spend

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