Innovation development with rheingold

It is a good time for tackling innovation again – especially with the Covid19 crisis coming to an end. Psychologically, humans are inherently innovative: we are driven by unconscious, often polar forces and are always on the lookout for new products, brands and experiences.

This ‘hunger’ for novelty is often not met by the market. For years, innovations have shown constant flop rates between 70-80% (consumer goods industry). The main reasons for failure are:

  • Lack of bird’s eye view: Innovations are created in collaborative processes between clients, agencies and market research. This requires taking time out of the day-to-day business and working together as an ‘Inno-Team’, which is not happening enough.
  • Lack of focus on customer needs: many ‘brilliant’ ideas fail because they are not aligned with consumer needs. Consumer needs need to be guiding the innovation process.
  • Lack of a clear, systematic innovation process: successful innovations require systematic, step-wise development. This includes a structured research process (see below) from prototype development over testing to preparation for market entry.

How do innovations succeed?

5 brand awards in recent years – rheingold systematically and successfully accompanies clients through innovation processes. Essential for success is the structured research process, which is precisely tailored to each client and their brands.
The following three distinct criteria are taken into account to evaluate the successability of innovations:

  1. Picking up on current cultural trends
  2. Psychology of the product category
  3. Brand fit

1. Picking up on current cultural trends

Innovations need to align with the pulse of contemporary culture. In our innovation processes, we keep an eye out for current cultural trends that have substance and longevity, beyond shorter term flickering trends.

However, pure trend following does not automatically lead to success. Picking up on trends makes sense especially when they correspond with the client’s market and brand.

rheingold Innovation developmentrheingold has accompanied the Frosch brand in strategy, product development and innovation processes for 25 years. Frosch very successfully aligns with the sustainability trend, which is particularly relevant for the household cleaner market. With Frosch, you don’t have to carry out any general-like ground battles (that’s what ‘Der General’ = ‘The General’ stands for), but you clean in a more relaxed way and with a cleared conscience. This way, you don’t only clean your home, but you also clean for the environment. This feel-good moment with the brand – based on sustainability – was used to develop a genuine product innovation that allowed Frosch to penetrate a new product segment: air fresheners were launched under theFrosch ‘Oasis’brand, providing a pleasantly scented feel-good ambience at home, ultimately winning the brand award in 2008. The brand’s comprehensive sustainability orientation then led to itwinning the award for best sustainability strategy in 2020. Frosch reconnects people and nature and does not convey sustainability with a raised finger, but with enjoyment and a human face.

Start-ups in the craft beer sector also have their finger on the pulse. They are making use of the trend towards authenticity and recollection. Consumers (especially younger ones) are showing a certain weariness with the big brands and are looking for something special and original. The small craft beer startups with their personal founding stories generate closeness and trust – values that seem to be increasingly lost on a global scale.

However, not every successful product innovation has to pick up on existing trends. Innovations can also be developed purely based on the psychology of the product category and brand.

2. Psychology of the product category

In order to come up with ideas for innovations or to review existing innovation ideas, the product category must be understood in-depth psychologically. rheingold has specialized in this for over 30 years: uncovering the inherently contradictory, largely unconscious desires and motives of consumers.

Innovation development rheingoldNIVEA’s In-Shower Body Lotion is a great example for a product innovation that is based on a deep understanding of what happens in the bathroom in the morning. In two-hour rheingold interviews, respondents described to us the complete process of their morning routines: While the process of showering was perceived as comforting, warm, secure, and a pleasant continuation of the dreamy nighttime state, the application of body lotion was associated with a chilly arrival in reality. Body Lotions stand for the first step into the day – the problem areas of the own body get targeted and the application of lotion completes this process. This is where the idea of combining the everyday test with the pleasant was born. One respondent said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if applying body lotion were as pleasant as taking a shower?” The result was a nourishing body lotion that could be applied while showering and thus not catapult out of the dreamy, pleasant state of mind. The prerequisite is that R&D has technologies in its pipeline to be able to implement such innovations.

The NIVEA example shows that the motives for product use are mostly unconscious – and inherently contradictory and tense. Innovations are the answer to the ever new desire to reconcile the immanent contradictions in the product area:

  • With its In-Shower Lotion, NIVEA managed to combine the cool and uncomfortably realistic application of body lotion with the pleasantly warm feel of showering.
  • In salty snack products, it’s all about the tension between spicy-fatty indulgence and the desire for non-processed, natural, healthier eating – Lorenz’s Naturals Chips brand is one answer.
  • When it comes to chocolate, consumers are caught in the conflict between wanting to melt into a childlike sweetness and maintaining their adult form. Ritter Sport’s crunchy, sporty brand image helps prevent dissolving, while Milka’s purple outer packaging brings an awakening distancing effect to the melt-in-your-mouth chocolate world. High cocoa percentages support a more mature feel on the product level. High cocoa percentages support a more mature feel on the product level.

In 2020, rheingold explored the German sausage and ham market for family butchers. The market is impacted by an increasingly lower prices, the consumer perception by a constant availability and over-supply of meat and sausages. Movements towards veganism and vegetarianism are worrying the industry.

The research has shown that the consumption of meat and sausage is, on one hand, characterized by the essential need to provide vitality (symbolized by the “absorption” of some of the animal’s powers). This has always been connected with feelings of guilt (killing the animal), which have reached a critical level mainly through the massification and cheapening of meat. The whole culpable cycle has become more obvious: animal welfare, deforestation to grow animal feed, carbon footprint, etc.

One way out of this dilemma is to counteract massification. rheingold has developed six different fields of innovation for the meat and sausage market, all of which enhance the market while appealing to different ‘meat consumer types’: ‘predators’, ‘sausage romantics’ and ‘innocent lambs’ are three of these types, each of which can be addressed at the POS through specific staging. These innovative staging fields enhance the sausage and ham market, counteract the loveless massification and generate a new appreciation for an industry that is under fire.

3. Brand fit

After all, it is important that an innovation fits the brand as well as possible and ideally reflects the brand’s values.

rheingold conducted a customized innovation process for the fruit juice brand Rotbäckchen. This traditional brand had stagnating sales despite being well known and much liked. The in-depth psychological analysis revealed the reasons behind this development and showed opportunities for innovations: Rotbäckchen stagnated because, on one hand, the brand radiated a grandmotherly, authoritarian claim to be a miracle cure: the users felt patronized by the brand’s ‘dictate’ of salvation. Consumers also reported an enormous sensually seductive power: the blood-red juice, the red-hot cheeks of the girl in the logo, the creamy consistency radiated such a salvific potency that consumers wanted to keep the brand at bay; mothers, for example, no longer offered their prepubescent daughters this blood-resembling juice – out of unconscious menstrual defense. The barrier to access and, at the same time, the starting point for innovations was thus the basic psychological conflict of a ‘miracle cure’: the brand’s paternalism and its overpowering sensually seductive power – which triggered a strong urge to disenchant the brand and claim one’s self-determination back.

Innovation development rheingoldThe seductive power could be relativized by universalizing the brand: by introducing spritzers or a children’s punch drink; the magical spell of the brand was softened or diluted. The paternalistic claim of a miracle cure was put into perspective by functionally differentiating the brand in a contemporary way: various new products for body, soul and spirit were developed, giving consumers the feeling of freedom of choice again. The result of the innovation process was a sales growth of 2000% and winning the German Brand Award 2020 for innovative and creative brand management.


When thinking about innovations, customers are always faced with the questions: where to start, what do we already have in the quiver, how can we identify conditions for a successful innovation, how can we set up a targeted innovation process and achieve success?

Increasingly dynamic and competitive markets trigger high innovation pressure. In some cases, trial and error is the method of choice, in others, standardized innovation processes in market research are resorted to, in the hopes of the market leading the way towards the innovation opportunity.

In our perspective, standardized processes do not go far enough. . One cannot look at the individual contexts of a market, a brand and the consumer psyche according to a pre-defined structure.

Based on client briefings, rheingold develops a customized, collaborative process that brings together psychological consumer realities, the brand and practical feasibilities. Developed prototypes are repeatedly incorporated into the process and tested ‘in the market’ regarding their successability. Successful innovations embedded in the current trend and category contexts aligned with the brand values are the result of this effort.

If we can also accompany you, please contact us.

Frank Quiring

Frank Quiring

Frank Quiring, psychologist, is a member of the management board of the Cologne market research institute rheingold. The focus of Frank Quiring's work is on packaging, food / drinks and cultural psychology. Quiring is one of the authors of the rheingold youth studies. Tel .: +49 221-912 777-69 E-Mail: