The Great Colin vs Cuthbert Debate

Video game depiction of M&S Colin vs Aldi's Cuthbert the caterpillar

Is Aldi simply using charities as props in the M&S lawsuit? Or is the hilarious war a gold-star lesson in social media PR? It’s certainly dividing opinion here at Raw HQ. So, we made our marketing gurus go head-to-head to debate the burning question: Colin or Cuthbert?

In the red corner, lead Content Strategist, Don Mike, thinks stunts like Aldi’s could actually damage the way that charities fundraise. But in the blue corner, Marketing Director, Charlotte Harris, fully appreciates how they’ve taken the opportunity to raise money for good causes. 

So, make yourself a hot bovril, settle into your home-working chair, and let’s settle this once and for all…

Make your case: love it or hate it?

Charlotte: I’m not gonna lie, I’m a hardcore fangirl. I love seeing the power of social media teams in action – and they’ve given us a masterclass that we’ll be talking about for years.  When that letter landed on Aldi’s desk, it could have easily been a one-off headline and a few letters between CEOs. But Aldi turned a potentially negative news story into something that people are actively following, and even having fun with. 

Don: Haha, yeah, it has been fun. But I’m a little more sceptical. Particularly in the way they’ve made charities unconsenting pawns in a row they had nothing to do with. They’re trying to borrow the charities’ moral clout to elevate their own brand in the public eye. It’s virtue signalling and I think it cheapens the hard work of organisations like Macmillan and Teenage Cancer Trust.

So do you think Aldi was wrong to drag Macmillan Cancer Support and Teenage Cancer Trust into the dispute?

Don: Well yeah – charities aren’t props. You wouldn’t adopt a dog just for Christmas (haha really not meaning to compare charities to dogs here but what a proposition from Dog’s Trust btw – truly stood the test of time). Similarly you shouldn’t wheel out your charity partnerships whenever they look like they might rescue you from a lawsuit. If you really care about your partners, you’ll care all year round. 

Charlotte: But I don’t think it is just about virtue signalling. Any publicity is good publicity, right? And Aldi are right in a way, aren’t they? Why pay lawyers when you can help actual, real people. It raises awareness, creates huge value for the charities – while elevating Aldi’s brand at the same time. Surely that makes it mutually beneficial, rather than exploitative. That’s why I think it’s really clever – they’ve taken control of the narrative, disarmed M&S with humour, and even involved consumers in the conversation. 

Well, how do you think charities should respond in situations like this?

Don: Well I think often it traps them into a difficult position. Charities worry about taking strong stances that might damage their reputation with the public. Situations like this one force them to choose; they have to either stand up to brands like ALDI, risking hurting their standing with the public – or they just go with it and are used as bargaining chips. Sadly, passivity is often the only way forward.

Charlotte: I agree. I’d love to see charities stand up to brands that take advantage of their goodness. I do think it’s time for brands to change their perceptions of charities as passive partners that they can wear like badges of honour, and start to see them for what they really are: change-makers in their own right. Fighters of the good fights. Bold, brave, and brilliant. Deserving of respect. 

Whichever side you’re on, you can’t help but laugh at some of the tweets. What’s been your favourite?

Charlotte: I get obsessed when brands chime in and interact with each other. This one from PrettyLittleThing is pretty good. 

Don: Who else is watching Line of Duty right now…? 😂

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