Recently we’ve been talking about the advantages the development of a minimum viable product can bring to companies. But is it enough for a product to be viable? Can technology be adorable and endearing? Can it – and should it – be loveable? You may feel confused with all these obscure abbreviations that are used in describing some popular trends the technology world faces today. There are an MCR – a minimum credible release, an MBP – a maximally buyable product, and – finally – an MLP which is a minimum lovable product. While an MVP is treated by companies and their development teams as a marketing strategy holy grail, what can an MLP boast of?
The term “minimum lovable product” was originally coined in 2013 by Henrik Kniberg in his overview of the product development process at Spotify:
«…Perhaps a better term is Minimum Lovable Product. A bicycle is a lovable and useful product for somebody with no better means of transport, but is still very far from the motorcycle that it will evolve into».
Further Henrik Kniberg expressed the idea that the term “minimum lovable product” (further – MLP) is the same as MVP, because both terms describe the simplest versions of the product that are able to solve the major problem, satisfy the principal requirement or need, and are capable of delighting users not being features-complete. In other words, the MVP approach is striving for being “barely enough”, and never “great and superb”, opposite to the development of an MLP which is targeted at creating a wonderful product people would praise and tell their friends about.
An MLP is a product which the audience would not just tolerate, but love. Which product can we call a lovable one? There are 3 main features to be mentioned:
- The planning product is a total innovation. It means there will be no competitors, or at least their number will be not that big. The startup is in a half-won position because a customer has no analogues to compare to the planning product.
- When potential customers and people who have already tested the product show off positive reaction when they hear about it, it means that the company managed to gain their respect and interest. And – by no means important – love.
- Customers, potential customers, CEOs of other companies, mass media representatives start contacting the company to learn more about the thing it is building, the release date, the set of available features, etc.
MLP as a first product release
There is a risky boundary between overinvestment and underinvestment at the stage of a test product development & release. In the first case, the company will lose money on the development of features which are not needed at this stage. In the other case, the company will lose potential customers and adherents because of the lack of features needed to test the viability of the idea and future product in general.
There is one more serious pitfall of underinvestment in the MLP. The reality is that underinvestment can make people lose interest in the product, that will lead to the gradual fading of the opportunity of creating the product people will love. Let us introduce these statements with the help of the graphics:
What features should be implemented in the MLP? Will three main features be enough? Or will it be better to provide 10 and more significant options? The choice must be well elaborated and reasonable, so we suggest resorting to the Kano model developed in the 80s by Japan’s professor Noriaki Kano.
It is an essential tool helping to communicate 5 universal categories of customer’s needs. Also, this tool helps companies understand their customers’ needs better than their customers understand their needs themselves.
Graphically, this idea can have the following appearance:
Thus, this value proposition canvas will be a good aid in deciding which features and options will create value to build the product around further. Genuine excitement is guaranteed in a result.
It’s hard to compare the importance of MVP to MLP’s significance. If the necessity of an MVP development has been experimentally proven by lots of bigger companies before, the MLP development option is a bonus which you can obtain from a detailed inspection of your potential customers’ needs and things they are ready to pay for. The approach of launching a product generating profit and meeting the basic requirements of people has remained in the past. The new trend is coming forward which is the creation of a delightful and enjoyable product – a lovable one.