The rheingold story

"Not only are you going out on a limb....."

…you’re just about hanging on by your finger tips” is how our first key client reacted to our findings in an extensive study we had conducted for them. But despite their quite obvious scepticism, we were able to convince them of the benefits of our new morphological approach to exploration and analysis. Needless to say, the study went on to prove our point. That provided the ‘catalyst’ to rheingold. After that, rheingold took off and quickly become Germany’s most popular Institute for depth psychological research.

 But how did the rheingold story actually get started? rheingold was originally eponymously titled “Grünewald & Lönneker” after Stephan Grünewald and Jens Lönneker, it’s two founding psychologists. At that time the institute consisted of nothing more than a “fictitious” address, an answering machine and a telephone – all of which were registered to a helpful architect’s office. The big advantage was that there was always, or mostly always, someone there to answer the phone.

 Both, however, worked from home. Here too the answering machine played a role. And since one of the duo`s first tasks was acquiring new clients, the two were, of course, often out of office. Consequently incoming callers were met with the message “unfortunately there is no one here to take your call. Please leave a message after the beep and we’ll get back to you”. This method proved itself from day one.

 With the exception, that is, of a small “incident” that remains unresolved to this day. Mysteriously the lettering on the mailbox – the fictitious office that is – disappeared one night and important correspondence couldn’t be delivered. Only after the clients called repeatedly to question the existence of the office, did the founders become aware of the situation.

 After landing its first two big research projects, the company was then able to open its first office in Cologne’s Ehrenstrasse – “the Carnaby Street of Cologne”, as Stephan Grünewald used to call it. Even now, he has fond memories of the company`s then “high-tech office equipment - a typewriter with a 16-line display”. A technological landmark!

 Soon afterwards, the pair received an offer to join the ifm research group but after a “minor” dispute about the direction the company was taking, they left, renaming themselves ‘rheingold’ in 1998. Shortly after that the pair moved their centre of operations to an office at Kaiser-Wilhelm-Ring that, just like their first office, was located directly above a cinema. And very importantly for the two founders, they discovered they could see the Cathedral from the top floor. “Surely that’s a sign” noted Jens Lönneker. And even now they can see the cathedral from the top floor of their offices at Kaiser-Wilhelm-Ring 46.

 But to make matters even more interesting: their present offices were previously occupied by German’s Constitutional Protection Agency. “All we’ve done” Grünewald jokes “is to improve their interrogation methods”.

 But how did they arrive at the name - rheingold? The idea sprang from various conversations in which Heinz Grüne came up with the idea. Initially, the idea was dismissed as “daft-sounding nonsense”.

 But somehow the idea had never quite disappeared. “It kept on going through our minds,” said Heinz Grüne. This went so far that Grünewald, Lönneker and Grüne even went to see a psychoanalyst to find out exactly why they were resisting the name. Finally, after a long struggle they changed the company’s name and the “rheingold Institute” was born.

 Changing the name turned out to be fortunate – after the rebranding sales almost doubled.

And so, from these bold improvised beginnings, qualitative market research in Germany witnessed a success story. Using a completely new method, known as morphology, rheingold revolutionised the market of qualitative market research and delivered much deeper insights into the “secret logic” of markets.
© 2015 rheingold