Love it or hate it?

On Marmite and first time user experiences.

This week while doom-scrolling Twitter I found — amongst the tech bro hot takes and Brexit/covid/Trump fall-out — a popular tweet from an American VC professing his love for Marmite.

I’ve always loved Marmite, having been eating this curious savoury yeast spread on cheap white toast since I can remember. With parents who saw expiry dates as a mere suggestion and given Marmite is indestructible, it was often the safest option in the cupboard.

But Marmite is a divisive snack. Sometime in the nineties, an advertising whizz at DDB recognised that not everyone thought it was so great and created the ‘You Either Love It Or Hate It’ strap-line, which Marmite continues to very successfully market itself with today.

Is it actually true though? Over-exposure to marketing would make it very difficult to find out here in the UK - after all ‘it’s like Marmite’ is very much in the national lexicon.

Our American friends, however, haven’t been subjected to nearly as much Marmite advertising as we have here. So to see plenty of US Twitter accounts sharing similar stories in the comments got me hooked. One of the biggest themes I saw emerge was around a misunderstanding of how to actually apply Marmite to toast.

So many haters had just prepared their Marmite wrong!

Spread Marmite on too thick or eat it out of the jar like chocolate spread and any chance of your first Marmite experience being a good one goes out of the window. But have your first Marmite thinly scraped over a generous layer of butter by a true Marmite fan and you’re in with a great chance of a snack-piphany.

It’s all about crafting that first experience. Controlling the variables, steering away from traps and aiming for that first ‘Aha!’ moment which creates a new Marmite lover out in the world.


So far this year I’ve joined via Zoom as over a dozen people have started their Progression teams, with more to come as we continue to test and learn.

Some of the interviews were — frankly — disasters. A handful of times I knew that if they hadn’t been on a call with us they would have given up several times over. But with a few helpful words here and a more sensible default there, disasters could have been averted.

Just like that Marmite expert telling you to put a third as much on your knife, we needed to be steering them better towards the best first few minutes they could possibly have.

I’ve been a designer for well over a decade now, you’d think I’d know this. Yet every single time I’m reminded what an endlessly challenging yet fascinating process it is to create simple, intuitive and engaging products that deliver the value they promise, efficiently.

Any product can fall very easily into love it or hate it territory. It’s on us to recognise and deliver value — and to do it within minutes or even seconds.


494/500 words.

This is the first of what I hope to be regular musings on building products, work-life balance, life as a founder and moving from designer to early-stage CEO and onwards. I expect that while I find a rhythm the content may jump around a bit. You can also find me on Twitter and some older/longer writing on jonnyburch.com.

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