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MVPP: Minimum Viable Product Purchase and the lesson of the first trash talk T’s
[caption id=”attachment_480" align=”alignright” width=”271" caption=”MVPP: one slogan per shirt”]
When I was at AND 1 my job was to understand the customer and build product that he would love (and buy). In my role at First Round, I get to meet tons of smart people who are doing the same thing. I was making t-shirts, shorts and shoes and they are building technology, but at the end of the day, understanding what the consumer will love (and buy) is the essence of the work.
A popular framework for product development is MVP, minimum viable product as championed by Eric Ries. Iterative development is great because knowing your consumer is hard and it is tempting to cheat by throwing every feature you can think of into the product. At AND 1, when I was not sure what a consumer would love, I would add features to make the product “better.” A buyer at Footlocker taught AND 1 the real cost of this approach and introduced us to what I call MVPP, minimum viable product purchase.
When AND 1 started, there were 5 trash talk slogans and shirts were printed in a Philly basement. The slogans are still great and I try to work them into my game as much as possible
Your game’s as ugly as your girl
Wear a collar, you just got dogged
I’m the bus driver, I take everyone to school
You have NO game
I saw your game on a milk carton (it’s missing)
Early on, AND 1 got the opportunity to meet with Footlocker for the first time and it felt like a “make or break” moment for the brand. The team spent a ton of time putting together samples to show the buyer and went up to New York with 5 sample shirts. Black, Blue, Red, White and Grey. Each one had the AND 1 logo on the front and all five trash talk slogans on the back. If one slogan is good, 5 must be better, right?
The meeting went really well, but the buyer made a critical product suggestion: Why not put one slogan on each shirt instead of five slogans on one shirt? He thought kids would buy two or three shirts each, and that by recognizing the minimum viable product required to get our customer to buy, we could double or triple our market.
If the shirt was changed, he said he would take 5 of each in each of the five colors. Doing the quick math, that was 125 shirts and made Footlocker AND 1’s largest single customer. Later it became clear that he was ordering in thousands and AND 1 was one step closer to becoming the number one basketball company in the world.
The product suggestion, focus on MVPP, changed the trajectory of the company very early in its life. Now, when I learn about new products and technologies, I always wonder if we could grow the total opportunity by offering less. In the effort to build the best launch product or to discover product/market fit, are we iterating into offering much more than the consumer requires to make a purchase decision? Does our launch offering set expectations for the consumer that will make it harder for the company to grow in the future? Rather than killing features, could we save them for later?
Elegant design achieved through killing features and discovery of product/market fit informed by iterative development are frequently discussed and I would love to get your take on this extension of MVP to MVPP in the comments.