Lufthansa Contest Spurs 42 Swedes to Become Klaus-Heidi

What’s in a name? For Michael Eric Klaus-Heidi Andersson from rural Sweden, the answer is airfare to Berlin, a furnished flat in the German capital’s hippest district, and a fixed-gear bicycle for local transportation.

Until recently, the 24-year-old’s name was Michael Eric Andersson, but last fall he legally added Klaus-Heidi to win a marketing contest by Deutsche Lufthansa AG. He was chosen from 42 Swedes -- men and women from across the country -- who all changed their names to Klaus-Heidi. Andersson gets a rent-free apartment for a year in the southern Berlin borough of Neukoelln, complete with language classes to improve his rudimentary German and domestic flights to explore the country.

“It’s all a bit surreal, but fun,” Andersson said in English after arriving at Berlin’s Tegel airport yesterday. Sporting a cropped beard and a bewildered look, he was greeted by a duo of Lufthansa flight attendants, a pack of journalists, and a woman wrapped in a giant inflatable coffeepot to promote a local supermarket.

The publicity stunt is unusual for an airline better known for German attributes such as reliability and a distinct lack of humor. It underpins Lufthansa’s effort to boost its appeal with younger travelers drawn to discount airlines such as Easyjet Plc and Ryanair Holdings Plc, whose outspoken chief executive officer, Michael O’Leary, has long been the standard bearer of guerrilla marketing.

Too Weird

The combination of two familiar yet old-fashioned German names provided by Lufthansa aimed to broaden the appeal of the campaign to both men and women while giving it an ironic twist.

“Some people said that this would be too weird and the wrong fit for a company like Lufthansa, but the campaign has really hit the spot,” said spokesman Wolfgang Weber. “The public feedback has been tremendous,” he said, with the contest website pulling in 100,000 visitors in the first few days.

Klaus-Heidi Andersson will get food vouchers of 50 euros ($68) a week as well as free access to museums for a year. The other contestants were each given 60,000 frequent-flier miles, enough for a trans-Atlantic round-trip.

Berlin has drawn on the raw appeal of its cafes, designer boutiques and avantgarde nightclubs that ooze a laissez-faire attitude not typically associated with Germany. That’s turned the capital into a canvas for companies looking to rejuvenate their image. Lufthansa garnished its Klaus-Heidi campaign with a rapid-fire online-video touting the delights of late nights in scrappy, graffiti-coated clubs.

Rock Blasting

Lufthansa counts Sweden among its top five markets in Europe. But the airline doesn’t directly connect the countries’ capitals, relying instead on a code-share agreement with SAS AB. Andersson entered Germany via Frankfurt, considered by many Germans to be the anti-Berlin, a faceless burgh of banker-filled skyscrapers.

For the next year, Andersson’s home will be a 70 square-meter (750 square foot) flat with a balcony and decked out with the signature paraphernalia of the Berlin hipster, such as hardwood floors, vintage designer furniture and minimalist artwork. The single-speed bike comes with a Lufthansa logo and a label declaring it “Property of Klaus-Heidi.” For cold Berlin nights, he got the pajamas Lufthansa gives to its first-class passengers.

Andersson, who has worked at odd jobs that include rock blasting and travel journalism, said he’ll soak up Berlin’s culture and look for work to get to know the city, which he last visited when he was 14. His most recent employment contract ended last year, providing an opening for his Berlin sojourn.

Swedes wanting to change their first names can do so one time with a simple form sent to the tax office, and are required to keep one of their original first names. Lufthansa demanded that participants upload their new name certificates to a dedicated website as proof of the change.

Changing a name a second time is more complicated, requiring an application to Sweden’s Patent and Registration Office; Andersson said he doesn’t plan to drop Klaus-Heidi after his Berlin year is up.

“I now see Klaus-Heidi as part of my full name,” he said. “And it’s definitely an ice-breaker.”