Review: Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products

If your iPhone is more appealing than your first cup of coffee when your alarm goes off or if you’ve ever blown an entire evening on Pinterest, then you’ve experienced the phenomena detailed in this book: psychological marketing. Hooked is a guide for startup founders, product managers, marketers and designers for creating more of what we humans can’t seem to get enough of: habit-forming technology.

Eyal takes us inside the walls of Twitter, Instagram, and others to explore the behavioral techniques they use to build habits that stick and products we love.

Why all the fuss over developing habits? According to Eyal:

“User habits are a competitive advantage. Products that change customer routines are less susceptible to attacks from other companies.”

For a technology startup, the process starts with your goal: do you want to build a vitamin or a painkiller? Painkillers relieve a specific pain—they address our functional needs by making a “hurt” go away. Vitamins are different—they don’t address a pain-point, they appeal to our emotional needs, giving us pleasure, relief from boredom etc. Habit-forming products often start as nice-to-haves (vitamins) but once the habit is formed, they become must-haves (painkillers). The goal of a habit-forming product is to solve our pains by creating a linkage between the company’s product and the source of our relief.

Brilliant, huh?

The backbone of the book is “The Hook Model” which is based on BJ Fogg’s Behavioral Model, where:

B = MAT or Behavior = Motivation Ability and Trigger

In this model, a behavior ONLY occurs if there is motivation, ability and a trigger—any omissions and a behavior won’t occur.

The Hook framework takes Fogg’s model further and establishes a four-phased process:
1. Trigger
2. Action
3. Variable Reward
4. Investment.

The easiest way to build a habit-forming product is to make an action as effortless as possible avoiding the whole murky area of human motivation entirely.

How does one spark (user) action? Eyal says three things are imperative:
o Sufficient motivation
o Ability to execute the desired action.
o A trigger must be present to activate the behavior

As a recovering Pinterest junky, I’ll use my experiences on the platform to illustrate how the model works.

TRIGGER (EXTERNAL): Pinterest sends me an email with facts about who pinned my pins and which of my pins are most popular. The email also includes images from boards with themes like my own.

ACTION: Naturally, my ego is stroked from the popularity of my pins and my emotions are aroused from the eye-popping images. I go to Pinterest.

VARIABLE REWARD: As I peruse my feed on the site, dopamine kicks in big-time as I react viscerally to the pins that resonate. BAM! I’m transported to a magical world where everything is beautiful.

INVESTMENT: Two hours later, I’ve curated a magnificent collection of beauties to add to my ever-burgeoning boards. I rationalize my investment of time as being worthy— “I’m attracting like-minded customers!”

TRIGGER (INTERNAL): Eventually, the trigger becomes internal as I voluntarily return to the site to immerse myself in all the gorgeousness.

We humans, being human, love our rewards. In the Hook Model, our sustained interaction with a technology wouldn’t happen without them. On Pinterest, the reward for my action is information—a recipe that inspires, a book I love, a sweater I covet. Companies general bake-in one or more of three different type of reward systems into their products:

o Rewards of the tribe (social rewards/human connectivity—e.g., Facebook)
o Reward of the hunt (search for resources and information—e.g., Pinterest)
o Reward of the self (gaining mastery, competence and completion—e.g., Angry Birds)

Eyal goes into extensive detail behind each of the four model components, with emphasis on the psychology behind each. He brings the concepts to life through models, illustrations and storytelling. Refreshingly, he does address the morality of behavioral manipulation for companies. And he closes with practical suggestions for applying the model, such as:

“The Hook Model can be a helpful tool for filtering out bad ideas with low habit potential as well as a framework for identifying room for improvement in existing products.”

Hooked is a fascinating read for those who love to understand why we do what we do. Or those who want to design a product or service that reels consumers in and keeps them.

Eyal has a great website with free downloads, videos, articles, a blog, and other cool insights.

2017-07-21T23:25:15+00:00 July 21st, 2017|Book Review, Business, Consumer Behavior, Innovation, Marketing, Nonfiction, Psychology|Comments Off on Review: Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products