What’s in it for me: Find out how you can get people hooked to your products… in a good way.

The Hook Model explains the psychological processes that go into forming habits. It also explains how companies can build products to take advantage of this tendency. Find out why designing a habit-forming product is the best sales boost your company could ever hope for. And, you’ll also discover why the scrolling Twitter feed is so addictive (Hint: it’s no coincidence). And, it also explains the ethical implications of habit-building products. The Hook model is based on the four stages of the Hook Model.

It’s difficult to change or replace established habits.

Habits emerge because our brain is eager to save time, so in most situations it will make us do what it was that worked last. The trouble with habits is, it’s very difficult to permanently change them. Even if we change our routines, the neural pathways of the old habit remain intact in our brains and are very easily reactivated. Two thirds of alcoholics who finish a detox program start drinking again within a year. So how can you possibly succeed in adopting a new habit?

Habit-forming products generate high revenues and are hard to compete with.

Habits are hard to ditch so customers will likely use the product for longer, increasing their lifetime value to the company. For a new product to usurp your customers, it will need to be significantly better than the old one. Companies can be more flexible when pricing habit-forming products because customers have become dependent on the product to keep up their habit, so they won’t be so sensitive to price changes. For example, Facebook became such a hit because people got into the habit of using it and started inviting friends, tagging them in photos and other posts.

Habit-forming products require users to go through the four stages of the Hook Model repeatedly.

The Hook Model is a cycle consisting of four steps that, when repeated often enough, will lead the user to form a habit around the product in question.

The four stages are:

  • The trigger: an external event that gets us to try a product the first time, for example, a TV commercial.
  • The action: what we need to do in order to use the product, for example registering on an online community.
  • The reward: the fulfillment of the need that originally motivated us to take action, for example being entertained if the motivation was boredom.
  • The investment: something of value that we have invested in the product, such as time, money, or information.

The last step leads back to the start of the cycle and as these steps are repeated over and over again, the user starts to develop internal triggers instead of external ones. This means they will feel the impulse to use the product all on their own, even without external stimuli. The cycle becomes an unstoppable chain-reaction.

To start the process of habit-building, products need an external trigger. External triggers are “calls-to-action” and can take various forms. They can be triggers that companies pay for, like advertising that encourages people to use their products, or relationship triggers that rely on viral dynamics. To be effective, the trigger must offer the user a simple choice of actions to take. If the trigger is overly complicated, it’s unlikely to engage the product.

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