Lufthansa Invites Swedes To Change Their Names

The airline offered Swedes a chance at a new life in Berlin – but at the price of their names.

What would you do for a new life in a new country, all-expenses-paid? Would you change your name and uproot yourself completely – even if the name you have to use is a hyphenated amalgamation of different-gendered names? Contestants for Lufthansa’s ‘Klaus-Heidi’ contest in Sweden, devised by ad agency DDB, had their work cut out for them this October as they raced to “win a new life” by including the gender-neutral but “very German” amalgamation in their name. (Magnus Engvall, Lufthansa’s marketing specialist, said that changing your name name ‘Klaus-Heidi’ would be like changing your name to ‘Jack-Barbara’ in the U.S.).

What was the reward for all this? For those looking to leave Sweden and start a new life, the prizes for the fastest person to do this rather radical operation were arguably commensurate with the requirements for entry. In return, the jackpot – for the very first person to change their name – was a flight to Berlin, personal transportation to a fully furnished 750-square foot apartment in the trendy Kreuzberg and Neukolln neighborhoods, a bike emblazoned with ‘their’ name, free German lessons, and two domestic flights within Germany. Berlin was chosen because it has been a particularly popular destination for skilled immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe.

The response to the contest was stronger than Lufthansa anticipated. 42 Swedes, ranging in age from 19 to 69, changed their name to ‘Klaus-Heidi’ or inserted it somewhere into their existing names. Lufthansa had to shut down the contest a month early because they were overwhelmed by the number of entries, and though the grand prize only went to one person, the 41 other contestants have received silver membership in the airline’s frequent flyer program and 60,000 free miles.

If the contest sounds strange or even unethical, consider the fact that Sweden has a very high rate of name changes, in part due to a 1982 law that stipulated Swedes could change their name at any time and for any reason. They have since used the opportunity to shed traditional names ending in ‘son’ and ‘dottir’ and let their imaginations run wild.

Are you Klaus-Heidi?

Sources: The Atlantic, The New York Times

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