Minimum Marketable Product Culture

A new way of developing company cultures.


When product designers want to get an idea to market quickly, they’ll develop a Minimum Marketable Product (MMP)*. Simply defined by Roman Pichler, an MMP is, “The product with the smallest possible feature set that addresses the user needs, creates the desired user experience, and can hence be marketed and sold successfully.” He notes that the original iPhone is a great example of this. Notably, it shipped without copy and paste and the ability to send group text messages, but it still had enough features and had a distinct enough user experience that it communicated its value to consumers, allowing Apple to get the iPhone out much sooner than if they had tried to match their competitors feature-for-feature.

Now, what does this have to do with company culture? A lot, it turns out.

Think about your culture as a product you’re trying to get out to market quickly. What features are necessary to communicate the experience, and that your users (candidates and employees) require, and what are simply “feature matching” your competitors?

Too many companies spend a lot of time focusing on non-essential perks like pool tables or company picnics, and forget to focus on the things that affect the day-to-day experience of a company culture far more: communication style and frequency, workload balancing, and meaningful feedback to name a few. These “features” may be less sexy, but they matter far more for employee happiness. It’s not to say that a pool table isn’t important, but it’s likely not at the core of what makes you unique and what makes employees feel valued. It’s not an essential “feature.”

It’s the same with the iPhone example. Few were going to buy it or not buy it only because it had copy and paste. Users make tradeoffs all the time, and in this case, copy and paste took a back seat to a game-changing web browsing experience.

What are the standout features of your culture: the things that communicate your unique value to candidates and employees? What’s your Minimum Marketable Culture? If you’re undergoing a culture change initiative, are you letting non-essential features get in the way of a speed to market (and happier employees)?

Of course, there are also marketing advantages to the Minimum Marketable Product model. By launching with the MMP, Apple was able to make an event out of every subsequent launch of feature, noting that they had now included much asked for things like that copy and paste missing from the initial release. It made consumers feel like they were being heard, and allowed Apple to remind the general public about how great their phone was.

Thinking about this in the corporate culture context, so many companies look to re-launch their culture with a big bang, a slew of new benefits, new values, new mission, maybe a new employer brand, and then…nothing. Or, if it’s followed up, it’s just rehashing what employees have already heard. Not only does this approach take much longer to “get to market,” it also means that you have nothing new to communicate to employees, and the same message pushed out every month gets tired, fast. What if, instead, you launched your Minimum Marketable Culture (MMC) and then every quarter you enhanced it with a “feature” that your employees had asked for in a poll? Now, that pool table is an occasion for communication, rather than just getting lost in the mix of 50 other features.

The point is this: stop worrying so much about getting everything perfect when you’re undergoing a culture change. People will interact with your culture and modify it in ways you can’t even imagine. Instead start with your Minimum Marketable Culture, launch quickly, and develop a roadmap of new “features” that users actually want after interacting with your new culture, rather than what you think they want. Not only will it save you headaches and wasted dollars, you’ll also have something to talk about and a far more sustainable culture in the long term.

*I’m using Minimum Marketable Product (MMP) as it’s more applicable to this scenario as explained by Roman Pichler. Some readers may be familiar with the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), which, while similar in some ways, is really designed to test a singular idea or product. I felt that technically MMP was more technically correct here, but if you prefer MVP, don’t let me stop you.

Wunderman Thompson Employ is a full-service recruitment advertising agency and employer branding consulting firm, creating pioneering ideas in strategic recruitment, human resource development and management, and more.