Cuthbert and the ‘big six’

Andy Ball, managing director of Balls2 Marketing, talks about the importance of PR strategy.

As I write this, there’s been two huge stories that have dominated the media: one that has managed to turn a potentially damaging legal action into a positive online campaign; and another that has been a complete and utter PR disaster.

I am, of course, talking about Aldi’s response to the legal action taken by Marks & Spencer over its Cuthbert the Caterpillar cake, and the doomed European Super League.

These two cases provide perfect examples of how to manage your marketing strategy brilliantly in a very delicate situation – and how not to.

The way Aldi has turned its legal battle on its head, generating humour and masses of support through its social media channels, has been nothing short of genius. The ‘Free Cuthbert’ campaign has created a real talking point, not only tagging in rival supermarkets to point out the glaringly obvious (that each of them has their own version of M&S’s famous Colin the Caterpillar cake), but by ultimately asking them to all to “club together to raise money for charity, not lawyers”.

By using this tongue-in-cheek tactic, Aldi has turned a potentially damaging situation into one that has given them a friendly public persona and seen their social media popularity skyrocket.

In direct contrast to this, the ‘big six’ English Premier League clubs, which announced their involvement in the European Super League, seemed to have no strategy at all in place to counter the furious backlash they faced. The outrage from supporters, pundits, officials and practically anyone involved in the sport was inevitable after such a controversial statement, yet no response was forthcoming.

This ultimately contributed to all six of the clubs withdrawing quick sharp.

For every company, the way they interact with their customers, fans and stakeholders needs to be carefully planned and thought out, otherwise you’re more like to be a not-so Super League than a clever Cuthbert.