The world of cake is a tough one, it seems. Marks and Spencer (M&S) are taking legal action against Aldi for infringing the trademarked ‘Colin the Caterpillar’ cake.
Colin has been around for about 30 years and has been a staple of many British birthday parties ever since. Of course, other supermarkets cottoned on, and caterpillar cakes are now available at most British supermarkets – Curly, Clyde and Wiggles are just some of Colin’s closely related cousins.
Why is M&S suing Aldi?
So why are M&S picking on Aldi? A quick Google of images of the two cakes (and their other supermarket rivals) shows that Aldi’s Cuthbert bears more than a passing resemblance to M&S’s Colin, whereas the other supermarkets have attempted to make their caterpillars a little different.
The legal issue will be whether Aldi’s cake is similar enough to M&S’s to cause confusion – could people believe that the Aldi cake is the M&S one, once all the packaging is removed? If this is the case, there is a stronger case for asserting a breach of copyright and potential damage to the reputation of the M&S brand if they believe the Aldi cake doesn’t meet up to their high standards.
Aldi’s social media comeback
However, it’s not the legal details which have caught most people’s attention, it’s Aldi’s reaction on social media – they’ve taken the role of victim and run with it. #FreeCuthbert became a trending hashtag on Twitter, as their social media team shared a series of posts with content such as ‘Just Colin our lawyers’ and ‘Marks & Snitches more like’ as well as bringing other brands into the fray. Other supermarkets with caterpillar cakes were tagged and other brands willingly piled in, including Brewdog and Morrisons.
The lawsuit has gained so much attention, some have questioned if the two businesses may have teamed up to gain from the joint publicity. However, while this really suits Aldi’s mischievous tone, M&S haven’t pulled it off quite as well. Their attempt to respond in the same vein didn’t quite hit the right note, making them appear uptight and staid. While M&S potentially have the legal upper-hand, Aldi have gained the moral high-ground, offering to team up with all the supermarkets selling caterpillar cakes with profits split between both brands’ chosen charities. M&S have turned down the opportunity – something unlikely to have happened if both sides were in on it.
Who’s winning in the Aldi vs M&S battle?
At the time of writing, the legal case has yet to be decided but Aldi’s social media efforts have turned the story into a positive for them – mobilising Aldi fans, drawing attention to their social media accounts and showing them as being the charitable ones (in spite of M&S’s long-term fundraising efforts). Whatever the outcome in court, at the moment Aldi (and Cuthbert) look to be the winners.