Cuthbert vs Colin round 2: Aldi reignites caterpillar cake spat

Aldi says it is “like M&S, only cheaper” in a new advert, which portrays caterpillar cakes Cuthbert and Colin as rivals at a party.

Cuthbert with his caterpillar pals in the ad. Image: Aldi

Aldi has reignited the caterpillar cake wars in an advert that pits Cuthbert against M&S rival Colin.

The ad, shared by the brand on Twitter today (28 April), shows Cuthbert, brought to life by an actor in a caterpillar costume, at a party with his caterpillar friends, each named after other supermarkets’ cakes.

In the ad, Cuthbert, Wiggles (Sainsbury’s) and Morris (Morrisons) taste both M&S and Aldi’s cakes before declaring they like both. The ad then displays a caption showing Aldi’s cake costs £4.99 compared to £8.50 for the M&S equivalent, in the latest iteration of the discounter’s long-standing ‘Like Brands’ campaign.

Colin himself then makes an awkward appearance for a tense exchange with Cuthbert, which eventually breaks out in a scuffle.

The video ends with the line ‘Aldi. Like M&S. Only cheaper’. The brand has been posting further short videos and stills of the rival caterpillars since it launched the ad.

The ad will make its debut on TV during the Bank Holiday weekend.

The rivalry between Cuthbert and Colin is a longstanding one, with M&S taking the discounter to the court in a bid to “protect” its intellectual property in 2021.

However, rather than being deterred by legal action, Aldi capitalised on it, working with agency McCann Manchester to launch the tongue-in-cheek ‘Free Cuthbert’ campaign on social media. It kicked off its retort with a tweet parodying M&S’s famous tagline: ‘This is not just any court case, this is…#freecuthbert’.

The campaign became big news, with 1,400 pieces of written coverage, while user-generated videos racked up more than 30 million views across social. Protests were also held outside M&S and Cuthbert appeared on TV comedy panel shows. It also earned Aldi the 2021 Marketing Week Award for Social Media. The court case was eventually settled in 2022, with Cuthbert returning to shelves with a slightly tweaked appearance last spring.

The brand, known for its cheeky social media presence, has continued to make light of the legal battle and M&S on Twitter, and has now stepped it up a gear with today’s #CuthParty ad.

Whether M&S will join the party and find the humour in the ad remains to be seen. Aldi geared up for the launch with a tweet inviting its supermarket rivals for cake. While Asda, Waitrose and Iceland’s accounts all joined in with the banter, M&S remained silent.

In addition to the battle of the caterpillars, Aldi has focused much of its marketing on comparing its own products with branded alternatives on price as part of its long-running ‘Like Brands, Only Cheaper’ platform.

The original ad, which featured a gin-drinking lady, compared the price of PG Tips to Aldi’s Red Label teabags. It was crowned campaign of the decade by Marketing Week and YouGov in 2019.

Inside the campaign of the decade: Aldi’s ‘Like Brands, Only Cheaper’

The discounter’s sharp focus on value appears to be paying off, particularly as the cost of living crisis squeezes consumers’ finances. It became the fourth biggest supermarket by market share in September last year, knocking Morrisons out of the coveted ‘big four’. Aldi has been steadily clawing market share from its rivals, reaching 10.1% for the first time in the five weeks to 16 April, according to the latest Kantar data, with sales up 25% versus the same period last year.

While Aldi is looking in an extremely strong market position and is capitalising on its reputation as a brand not afraid to pit itself against competitors, its playbook for creating its own, cheaper lookalike products could be under threat after a recent legal ruling.

Earlier this month, fellow discounter Lidl won a legal battle against Tesco. The case was over Tesco’s use of a yellow circle on a blue background, with the High Court ruling it copied Lidl’s logo to “deceive” customers.

Experts Marketing Week spoke to at the time said this ruling could open up supermarkets like Aldi to legal issues if own-label products look too similar to brands.

Geoff Steward, head of litigation at asset management company Stobbs said the case “established beyond doubt” that appearance and colour is more important than brand name when it comes to intellectual property infringements.

“This is now one of the best legal authorities to use in order to eradicate lookalike packaging,” he said.

For the moment, Aldi looks to be less than fearful about getting into legal trouble by comparing itself to its competitors.