For years, businesses in the tech and innovation space have been measuring their initial offering in terms of MVP (Minimum Viable Product). This was a great term to help businesses take an offering to market that represented the minimum that they were happy to unveil.
Over the years, however, the MVP technique caused difficulties. Not only did we see companies bringing products to market that they weren’t happy with, they also brought products to market that the consumer wasn’t happy with. This made MVP damaging to brands in some respects, and therefore a new term was born.
MLP or Minimum Lovable Product, is an initial offering that is about really loving a product as opposed to it being just good enough. In this article, we are unpacking both terms to decipher why MLP may be a better term to work towards than MVP.
MVP has been a term that has been used for years to refer to a company’s initial offering. An MVP refers to the minimum product that could be released by a company and be viable in the market. An MVP helps businesses drive towards a minimum product, often quickly, with a clear view of the minimum requirements for it to be taken seriously in its market.
This kind of bare minimum attitude is often used so that a company can get something out there as a starting block and then add to it quickly after. For many businesses who are investor-backed, the MVP helps create a route to market that is speedier than creating a product that everyone loves.
However, as any branding guru will tell you, often doing the bare minimum can have disastrous effects on consumer attitudes to your brand. Whilst the MVP can work, it is a risky framework as customers can easily become frustrated with your product and look elsewhere. Thus, losing a brand both paying customers, but also reputational costs.
A Minimum Lovable Product or MLP, came about to counter the MVP framework that was causing issues for businesses. An MLP is an initial offering that is designed to be loved from the start – by both users and the company themselves. The premise with this style of thinking is that a product should be lovable before it goes to market.
The MLP school of thought suggests that users should love a product from the start, and that creating something that does the bare minimum could actually harm a brand’s reputation. The use of the term MLP or Minimum Awesome Product arose from thought leaders like Brian de Haaff, Scott Cook and Eric Ries and is now recognised as a key term in product development and innovation.
Here’s the thing, a MVP is fine if you’re looking to take a product to market quickly and make some money without thinking too much about your brand. However, MVP is a short term strategy that needs some thought as to how you will grow the product post-launch and potentially how you will recover the brand damage that may occur from releasing a ‘just adequate’ product.
If, however, you want to create a brand that is genuinely loved by its customers, then a Minimum Lovable Product is really the only way to go. The MLP model is much more effective at creating an engaged community around your brand, which makes long term product development much more fruitful. The idea with MLP is that there may be some short term investment, for long term gain as opposed to the short term gain that is found with MVP.
A Minimum Lovable Product will offer brands the opportunity to develop on that product in a way that offers huge value further down the line. For example, the Apple iPhone was The iPhone 1,2,3,4 and so on. If Apple hadn’t created that MLP initially, then there may have not been such evolution of the product. If you short change your customers by providing them with an MVP for the initial product then you may find that they won’t be interested in learning more about the evolutions of the product that follow.
As Jiaona “JZ” Zhang, VP of Product at Webflow and formerly of Airbnb, WeWork, and Dropbox, comments on the evolution of the MVP:
“The minimum viable product was appealing because it was cheap, and you could get it to market faster. But we’ve advanced past a world where products are ‘the first of X.’ Stiffer competition means that MVPs aren’t going to cut it anymore. If startups truly want to stand out, they need to strive toward creating a minimum lovable product instead.”
When you weigh up the differences between releasing an MVP and MLP to market, it is clear that the MLP will be the better option. That said, many brands worry that creating an MLP will be too costly and won’t come with the long term benefits that it promises.
In order to have success with an MLP, it is crucial that you follow steps and work with people who specialise in creating MLP’s. Here are some of the ways you can create an MLP that makes waves:
Whereas an MVP might solve customer problems in an ugly way, think about your product as the solution that makes it beautiful. With so much competition out there, a product needs to offer something amazing that also solves a customer problem. Think about creating a product that you’d be really proud to show off to your friends, introduce to new customers and have as the face of your brand.
While an MLP is looking to create something really loveable (it’s in the name, right?) it’s also looking to take it to market in a time frame that makes sense. If you move too slowly and try to include everything in version one of the product, you’ll probably be too late by the time you take it to market. Move in an agile way and keep the flow of innovation going. Don’t let things get stagnant because you’re trying too hard to make the product perfect.
Linking back to the point above, an MLP isn’t the final product so don’t treat it as such. The work isn’t over once you’ve launched your MLP, no matter how loved it is. Remember that an MLP still needs testing and improvement. Even before you launch you should have a plan together concerning how you will evolve the product and where you can go from launch.
After reading this article, you probably know that developing a MLP is the right path however executing it might still be an unknown. To help you with this task, it’s a good idea to work with an innovation lab that understands product development for MLP.Whatever your next digital product development project, ENO8 would love to discuss it with you.