What can we learn from the M&S and Aldi squabble?

Posted on April 23, 2021

Updated on April 23, 2021

1 min read time

If imitation is the surest form of flattery, why was M&S up in arms about Aldi’s new product release, Cuthbert the Caterpillar?

Throwing their rattle out of the pram, M&S responded with an Intellectual Property Claim to defend their turf and the beloved UK staple, Colin the Caterpillar, who just celebrated his 30th birthday last year.

Through the lens of our 16 Relationships and the Marketing Lever, Communication, we’ll be exploring the Aldi, M&S beef to shed light on the confrontation, examining whether its impacted public perception on the brands and if it will ultimately boost or dent their credibility.

Communication is key

Aldi’s Marketing team had a field day with Cuthbert. Taking to Twitter with vigour, Aldi executed a smart social strategy, with the intent to gain as much traction and press as possible. Their tactics were bold, coining new nicknames for the supermarket, creating a visual of Cuthbert the Caterpillar behind bars, and even using M&S’s slogan against them. These tricks worked in Aldi’s favor, increasing their awareness and boosting their Relevancy. Communicating in a human way and engaging with meme culture, made Aldi more relatable, and generated a lot of support for their cause.




But can this be taken too far?

We were all for it when Aldi was using lighthearted comms to provoke M&S but when they started to bring charity into the game, it stopped being so fun to watch. Aldi’s decision to create a limited-edition Cuthbert, with all proceeds going to charity could be seen as an amicable gesture. But the use of the hashtag #caterpillarsforcancer in their tweet left us feeling cheated. The Driver, Integrity, comes into question here. Are Aldi and M&S being authentic with their charitable causes or are they using these serious issues to push their own agendas?

And all of this has got us thinking…

How different is Colin to other cats out there in the market?

When it comes to Differentiation, Colin isn’t all that different to the other copycats in the market. There’s Sainsbury’s, Wiggles, Cecil the Caterpillar from Waitrose, and Asda’s, Clyde. With so much competition out there, why did M&S choose to target Cuthbert? It begs the question, is there turf left to defend, when the category is so undifferentiated?



If we’ve piqued your interest and you’d like to learn more about our 16 Drivers and 14 Marketing Levers, head to our guide on building a brand people fall in love with.


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