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Poking, stoking and provoking

“For a brand to be noticed, it needs to be remarkable. And for us, Provocation is a central part of this.” Georgina Denny, Provocation Director, Elmwood

From uncovering unforeseen opportunities for innovation to provoking clients and colleagues to think differently – two DBA members tell us about the value of their roles.

Georgina Denny, Provocation Director, Elmwood

head-shot-1Provocation’s central ethos actually comes from the Sci Fi writer Jean Vinge who wrote “Indifference is the enemy, it makes everything it touches meaningless”. In a world where consumers are bombarded with brands 24 hours a day, this couldn’t be more pertinent. For a brand to be noticed, it needs to be remarkable. And for us, Provocation is a central part of this. You can’t ignore Provocation, and that’s a start! Provocation is a strategic approach to branding that ensures creative cuts through and is effective as possible.

There’s a statistic that says consumers wouldn’t mind if 80% of the brands they use disappeared from their lives tomorrow. Whether we’d like to admit it or not, most of us will work on the everyday brands that fall into that 80%. Laundry detergent, toilet roll, shampoo… We invest so much of our time and energy into these brands, so for that to be worthwhile it’s our responsibility to jolt consumers out of the indifference they may feel towards these brands.

At Elmwood, we always strive to look beyond our collective worldview, and Provocation is a central part of this. It’s the Prov team’s responsibility to Poke, Stoke and Provoke our clients, and each other, to think differently, get out of our comfort zones and look to the wider world for inspiration. Provocation can come from anywhere, and when it’s harnessed and translated into brilliant creative, we can hope to go someway towards remarkable.  


A great example of Provocation in action is the work we did for Mexican beer brand Tecate. Tecate’s goal was to re-define modern masculinity in Mexico.

Sitting in London, it would have been naive of us to make assumptions on what it means to be a young man in Mexico today. So we got on a plane and got out there with them.

We spent time immersed in their world and their lives. The provocation they gave us, and the invaluable insight we gained was central to the success of the project. We were able to create a strategic approach that defined the huge opportunity for Tecate in Mexico, and the creative has been incredibly successful for the brand.

Heineken Tecate and Elmwood won a Gold DBA Design Effectiveness Award for the Tecate Rebrand – read more about the project here. 

Hollie Johnston, Senior Consultant - Human Factors and Research, PDD

pdd-hollie-johnstonPDD is a multi-disciplinary design and innovation consultancy, with expertise ranging from research through to design and engineering.

At the core of PDD is our Human Sciences ethos, founded on the principles of Human-Centred Design. By keeping the consumer at the centre of the design process we uncover and understand unmet needs, as well as unarticulated frustrations that inspire concept designs, deliver feedback on the most compelling solutions and act as a springboard for innovation.

A macro to micro process allows us to frame the problem in the context of the customer, category and market to qualify the opportunities, understand risk and explore out of category influences on customer behaviour. 

PDD Human Factors, Usability and Research
PDD Human Factors, Usability and Research

As a Senior Consultant spanning the Human Factors and Research disciplines in the PDD Human Sciences team, I am involved in exploring how people interact with products, services, environments and the people around them to identify opportunities and solutions grounded in consumer reality.

My role ranges from exploratory ethnographic research with lead users in emerging markets, to formative and summative evaluations of medical and pharma products.

Formative aims to understand user behaviour by observation from the point of view of the subject of the study, in order to form an unbiased and comprehensive understanding of users, environments and potential coping mechanisms. By doing this, we can uncover unforeseen opportunities for innovation and development.

pdd-human-factors-usability-and-research-01Summative aims to understand the cognitive, physical and emotional challenges involved in the use of a medical device or system in order to ensure compatibility with the needs, abilities and limitations of intended users. By doing this, we recognise and minimise potential risk to users and simultaneously we ensure our clients reach quality assurance requirements.


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