Strawberry blondes 

Here at NewDog PR we are never backwards in coming forwards when we make a mistake, unless there’s a chance that lawyers may be involved, in which case you can talk to our lawyers. 

So it’s a fair cop, but we hadn’t noticed that Nordic Choice had changed its name to Strawberry. It’s entirely our fault, there were a number of launch events including a giant explosion of red in a strawberry shape. It’s really just carelessness and there’s no excuse.

Sadly, this being back in May, the statute of limitations has run out on taking the mick out of the name, which is fair punishment. For interested readers, Strawberry refers back to Nordic Choice owner  – and billionaire property investor –  Petter Stordalen’s first job: selling strawberries in the local market.

So while we go as red as one, let’s get into the why and the why does is matter to us. 

Stordalen told Forbes: “The strawberry philosophy is about using the resources you have, like people and the planet. It’s about caring for those resources, and of course, it’s about profit as well. Strawberry Group is the umbrella for all our other companies and for sustainable new capitalism.”

And he’s right, of course. If you stop having multiple names, then it saves on business cards and letter heads and whatnot.

It also gives Strawberry what business consultants these days like to call ‘an ecosystem’. And it’s fun to have one of those (but don’t have too much fun, like an industrial revolution, or you can screw it up) because you can rummage around in a lot of other types of businesses and see if one can help the other.

So, with Nordic Choice having joined Strawberry and become Strawberry, like the Borg (from Star Trek, not Björn – he’s Swedish, not Norwegian) this means it is friends with Ving, or what we used to know as Thomas Cook Northern Europe, which included Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia.

Not content with that, last week Strawberry and Norwegian (the airline) announced that they were to establish a joint company that would provide a wider selection of services to the members of the companies’ respective loyalty programmes. The company will create a common loyalty currency and a platform where members can earn and use loyalty points across different programmes. The entity will be jointly owned by Norwegian and Strawberry, each retaining an equal ownership stake.

The digital loyalty currency will replace the loyalty point systems which are used by various loyalty programmes today. In this way, members who earn points at hotel stays can choose to use them to pay for airfares, or vice versa.

“We are developing our already popular loyalty programme, Norwegian Reward, by thinking outside the box and cooperating with new partners. I am very pleased to have found Strawberry as a partner and that by joining forces, we are developing a new platform which will give even more customers the opportunity to choose from a broader selection of services. We would also like to invite more partners to join this collaboration as we move forward,” said Geir Karlsen, CEO of Norwegian.

And I bet he would. Well, he said so, so it’s not much of a bet. But as a concept, hotels and airlines are a good one. Regular participants in the hotel sector will recall that loyalty programmes were created in large part to see off those knavish OTAs. It hasn’t worked yet, but one thing which might tip it over would be if the loyalty programmes were one and the same with airlines.

Marriott Bonvoy currently has agreements with United Airlines and Emirates over earning and trading, Accor Group and Air France-KLM Group have aligned programmes and the branded credit cards go some of the way, but, given how both sectors have the same hopes and dreams, it’s not as widespread as one might have thought.

Of course the killer would be when hotels and airlines were truly part of the same strawberry patch, which takes us back to Le Méridien/Air France territory. Back in 2018 Accor had looked at a stake in Air France, but veered away. And of course Hooters Air stopped its wings-and-hotpants service back in 2006. 

So there’s a market. Given the volatile state of the experience in the air at the minute, one might enjoy, say, a Four Seasons-branded journey from door to door. And think of the points. 

 

 

 

Petter A. Stordalen, owner and founder of Strawberry (former Nordic Choice Hotels), and Geir Karlsen Photo, CEO of Norwegian. Photo credit: Espen Solli

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