Why is this work relevant for Social & Influencer?
The #FreeCuthbert campaign was only on social. It could only have happened on social. And it was only through social that we could have the speed, dexterity, and real-time interaction with the audience. We were able to capture the imagination of the nation and rally their support through social. The campaign went viral, as we garnered ever-growing support from the public, brands, charities, and celebrities. Turns out, people like caterpillar cake.
If you don’t know, Caterpillar Cake is a pretty big thing in the UK. It’s a cultural phenomenon. Young or old, it’s standard procedure to be bought a chocolate caterpillar cake for your birthday. Now that’s out of the way...
Situation: On the morning of 15th April 2021, Marks and Spencer’s launched legal action against Aldi for infringing a trademark on their caterpillar cake, Colin. Papers filed at the High Court stated the design of Aldi’s caterpillar cake, Cuthbert, was too close to their much-loved Colin.
Despite other supermarkets all having their own caterpillar creations, Marks & Spencer’s stated it wanted to ‘protect Colin’s reputation’ and it was Cuthbert who was benefitting from Colin’s success. Cuthbert was, they alleged, the copy-caterpillar.
Brief: How do we respond to the legal action by M&S in a way that reflects Aldi’s brand, character, and tone?
Objectives: Win public opinion. Gain public support.
Describe the creative idea (30% of vote)
Our instant response to the situation was to take to social. We knew that while M&S wanted to win in the High Court, we wanted to win in the court of public opinion. We had to take early control of the narrative, turning this from ‘Aldi Vs M&S’ to ‘Aldi and The People Vs M&S’.
Very quickly we decided, rather than retreat and be quiet, we would ramp the conversion up. So, on the same day we first heard that M&S was starting legal action against us – we created what was to become Aldi’s biggest ever news story. The #FreeCuthbert movement began fighting back.
Over the next 48 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.
Describe the strategy (20% of vote)
Our strategy was simple: get the public on our side. After all, for its perplexing technicalities and legal ramifications, this was a silly squabble over a children’s chocolate cake. If we thought it was ridiculous, maybe the public would, too?
Our goal was to secure the goodwill of the public, we could only do that by being nimble, shrewd, and humorous on social. Speak where we could be loudest. It worked.
Almost instantly, #FreeCuthbert was on the news, being debated on radio, 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.
As our #FreeCuthbert tweets continued, as did the support of the nation. As well as the public, brands, charities and celebrities added their voices to the ever-growing #FreeCuthbert chants.
Describe the execution (20% of vote)
All in, the #FreeCuthbert campaign consisted of around just 20 Twitter posts. Barely more than 150 words. Activity ran from the evening of the 15th April – 20th April 2021, mainly on Twitter and Facebook.
List the results (30% of vote)
In just a few days, we were able to turn a potentially bad news story overwhelmingly in our favour. The #FreeCuthbert campaign had won the hearts, minds and mouths of the public, while M&S were left rueing their decision to go public with the announcement.
#FreeCuthbert had become Aldi’s biggest news story in years. Over 500 written articles and 342 broadcast items, represented over 300,000,000 opportunities, in the first 24 hours alone.
- #FreeCuthbert trended #1 on Twitter, twice
- More than £5m in earned media
- +500,000,000 social impressions
- Over 30% increase in Twitter following – from approx. 440k to 572k
- Over 30m organic views on TikTok
- Facebook page views increased 2321%
- Engagement rate across Twitter and Facebook: 15.3%
- News Sentiment: Aldi +8.5%, M&S -134%
- Purchase Consideration: Aldi +6.1%, M&S -15.3%
- All for £0 spend (the cherry on the cake).
Please tell us about how the work challenged / was different from the brands competitors
Since its arrival into the UK in 1990, Aldi has been the challenger to the so-called ‘big four’. Its subsequent growth as the ‘discounter supermarket’ completely changed the industry landscape – disrupting and shaking up the status-quo of Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s.
Our challenger status has helped us to develop a social tone that, amongst the supermarkets, only we could get away with – irreverent, cheeky and brave. On social especially, we’re known for saying it as it is, and calling out other brands, where others wouldn’t.
In #FreeCuthbert, we leaned into our challenger status, rallying the nation against the ‘bigger’ supermarket, Marks and Spencer. In the battle between Colin and Cuthbert, the nation sided with us – because the narrative on social was that they were picking on us, the smaller supermarket.
We turned the case from Aldi vs M&S, to ‘Aldi and the people’ vs M&S.