Product Marketing as Provocation

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Today, Paulo Ribeiro and Nilesh Ashra of W+K Lodge shared with me some of their thinking around product marketing as needing to be framed as “brand provocations.” I looked up the term, and read with great curiosity this 2014 HBR article on the topic — especially the passage:

What the marketing community has been slow to grasp is that nice is not a place of safety. Appealing a little bit to everyone turns out to be a really dangerous place to be. If we want a powerful brand, we are going to have to pay for it with risk. We have to start offending, irritating, and antagonizing some people.

If you live in the United States, you might recognize this playbook of “brand provocation” being used at unprecedented scale right now. McCracken continues:

The point is that every brand must calculate a trade-off. If we want passion and engagement, we are obliged to up the provocation. Not everyone is going to love us. But then these days there’s no chance everyone is going to love us. The new trade-off says, for some to love us, others must hate us. Or at least find us incredibly irritating. It’s the American way.

Do I agree with this product marketing approach? The theory is sound — and it’s definitely a way to stand up and above the crowd. But there’s still virtue to humility.

The thing to remember is that a diverse set of approaches are always good to test out and exercise — just don’t get stuck in one mode. Because too little confidence, and you’re unable to act; too much confidence, and you’re unable to hear.

Relatedly: My post from the next day on Big Kills Small after seeing a Supersized-Stumptown ☕.


Yes, there is virtue in humility and too much provocation can get out of hand. Each product will have to find its level of provocation to be seen above the crowd, though.

I practice provocation as research. Feed back is more spontaneous when I provoke with my offer and this helps me to get more knowledge on the proces of intuitive decision making of possible clients for my services