This is not just any old bake off…
I love a little bit of brand trivia and this is a great one:
So this Company started 130 years ago in the Kirkgate Market in Leeds. The owner was a Jewish immigrant, and created the slogan “Don’t ask the price, it’s a penny.”
As his business grew he found a partner. The business as it is known today was born (yes, I am deliberately not telling you the name).
It has survived 2 World Wars and sold the first bra. Now they are working towards being the world’s most sustainable major retailer.
Doesn’t that sound impressive?
Yet none of this matters.
Because instead of highlighting the grit, the determination and success of the Company, everyone is focusing on a fight between Caterpillar Cakes.
Yes, I am indeed talking about Marks & Spencer.
The Marks & Spencer Brand
For me, I’ve never had an issue with Marks & Spencer. If we went for a drive with my parents we always bought Yum Yums from M&S food. My primary school uniform was bought from there, and even my current bras are from M&S.
I think I have even had a Caterpillar Cakes for birthday celebrations.
It has always just been “there” in the background.
And this is the problem.
As a Brand Specialist the goal is to make a Company stand out. Not melt into the background like their Melting Fondant Cake. A brand that has got such an interesting history shouldn’t stuff it into an archive for people to visit.
It needs to be celebrated.
But over the last few years Marks & Spencer has been trying to be “down with the kids”. I’m 34 and I’m definitely not “cool” and I doubt with I would be at 130.
They have lost their identity and forgotten who their target audience is.
I have always associated Marks & Spencer with a middle aged audience – those who are just getting into the senior managerial roles who can afford a little bit more and want clothing for comfort and not for going out in.
But over recent years they have been trying to go after an audience my age or younger, and for us shopping in Marks & Spencer is neither affordable or…fun.
And this is why “Caterpillargate” is so damaging for Marks & Spencer. It just looks like its bullying another competitor who, if you have read their Twitter feed, is taking it really well.
Should Marks & Spencer stop the lawsuit?
Marks & Spencer do have a trademark for the caterpillar cakes so they do have a legal right to challenge it.
As a business owner I would 100% take someone to court if they infringed on my trademark, and because I am a small business I would probably gain more sympathy because my earnings are not going to any investors. If I was bigger, potentially there would be some backlash, especially if the Company had gone public.
If I was in Marks and Spencer’s shoes I would continue with the lawsuit, mainly because they have got themselves into a position where they are damaging their brand whether they continue or not.
But in the long run, they need to stop trying to be in with the popular kids and focus on who they are: a Company with an incredible history with a sustainable focus.