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  • Writer's pictureSamradni

Hooked Book Summary: How to build habit-forming products

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

How did you start your day this morning?

No, I am not asking you about your personal details of course, but the question is more towards things that you have to do daily.

Like for example, is checking your WhatsApp messages, the first task you accomplish in your day?

Or is it something like uploading a nice picture of your fancy breakfast, with a lot of filters on Instagram?

When I started The Marketing Empress a while back, almost for a month after, my daily routine would be to wake up and check my Google analytics metrics.

How many views, how many likes, how many shares, yes this was a crucial part of my daily routine!

Either way, can you term these practices as habits?

Well most of us, might have been taken aback with a claim like that because whenever the word ‘habit’ pops up, our mind thinks about something we cannot do without.

And the way human nature works, we don’t wish to be associated with something, that’s so important, that your life is incomplete without it.

But as a matter of fact, checking your WhatsApp messages first thing in the morning or uploading a picture on Instagram, etc. are nothing but habits that we have taken up over a while.

Now the question arises, are we responsible for this?

Yes, these are habits you have decided to form, for yourself.

But actually, it’s got a lot to do with the way these brands have positioned themselves, which turns them into habits.

So what is it that these brands like WhatsApp, Instagram, or even Google for that matter, have in common that have made them habit centric?

These products follow the Hook model, which makes them one of the most trusted, and one of the most used products.

And we will get to understanding the Hook model in detail, but first, let’s understand the need to have Habit-forming products.

Why do we need Habit-forming products?

The best example provided for this answer is in the book itself

If I were to ask you the difference between Google and Bing, what would you say?

Clearly, both are search engines, and when in doubt, both of them will provide you with the much-needed answers to your questions.

But then, why isn’t Bing as popular as Google?

Because, Google has formed a habit in the minds of the consumer, whereby, even a slight interface change in the case of Bing, will not make you opt for it.

You will still come back to Google.

This is what a habit-forming product does to your consumers, and once you are hooked.

You are hooked for life unless another new habit is formed.

What is the Hook Model?

Many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of making their products slightly better than the ones already existing.

But what they fail to understand is that there are times when a better product may not succeed.

And that is because a habit-forming product will always be a notch higher than simply a better product.

The Hook model comprises of 4 phases (Trigger-Action-Variable rewards-Investment) that run in a loop or a cycle as given in the image below

The Hook Model by Nir Eyal

Now let’s look at each of these in detail

1. Trigger

Habits are formed when a trigger is responsible for bringing about the desired change.

Of course, these aren’t developed overnight but take time to form.

Now triggers can be divided into the following two types

a. External Triggers

In short, an external trigger is direct- in the sense that this trigger clearly tells you what to do.

For example- Call this number or visit the website.

This trigger also combines a lot of information, whereby it’s easier for a consumer to understand what needs to be done at the end.

b. Internal Triggers

An internal trigger comes into play when a product is associated with a particular pain point.

For example, a product is used to such a great extent that eventually whenever you experience something similar, you want to use that product

These are internally linked, in the sense that they have a strong connection with emotions or feelings of an individual

2. Action

Of course, a trigger is completely useless, if it doesn’t create a need for some direct action.

And it’s also noteworthy, that people will only act when desire outweighs the effort.

You need the action to be provided to your consumer in a very simple format, and ensure it’s out there.

3. Variable Rewards

Our body releases dopamine- a pleasure-inducing chemical, in anticipation of a reward.

There are times when a product usage is directly related to a reward, and that makes us use the product even more.

A great example, in this case, can be the scratch cards you receive when you make a payment on Google pay.

Image Source:

The whole point of why that works, is the fact, that it’s ‘Variable’, you do not get the same reward again and again.

Rather it’s something new/different each time, that keeps your anticipation going.

4. Investment

Investment in this case is not coming in from the brand, but rather from the consumers.

For a product to become a habit-forming one, it’s extremely important that we ensure the consumer invests his/her time as well as efforts into the product.

Not just once, but keeps doing that regularly.

Now we have learned the hook model in detail theoretically, but the book also covers points on how you can use this model in practicality.

However, I will now move on to talk about my top 3 learnings from the book

1. A company can determine it’s habit-forming potential by understanding the following two points- a. Frequency and b. Perceived utility

Let’s try to understand this a little, now am I trying to say here that not every product can induce a habit?

Yes, that’s right

Because we need to understand the frequency of a product, they say if you practice something regularly, chances of it converting into a habit are way more.

Secondly, understanding the perceived utility is important

What is my product doing to help the consumers, also how rewarding is it?

Both these play a crucial role in understanding whether your product can eventually turn into a habit-forming one.

2. Aim for Vitamins rather than painkillers

This is an analogy made in the book

Painkillers are the products that managers and investors give a lot of importance to.

These are products that solve a real problem or provide immediate solutions to the problems that are provided upfront.

Vitamins, on the other hand, do not solve an immediate problem, but rather focus on the underlying problem

These are more important because they try to solve those problems that maybe even the consumers are not aware of.

3. Answer the question, will I use it?

I have stressed on this in a lot of blog posts, but I still totally find merit in pushing out this thought again and again.

Put yourself in your consumers’ shoes, and try to understand, If I weren’t making the product myself, would I use it?

If you wouldn’t use it yourself, do not expect a different reaction from your consumers.

Now a clear counter-argument to this maybe that, “I am not the right Target group for my product so I cannot compare myself”

But trust me, it still works to think from the consumers' point of view even if you don’t fall under the category of the right target group

To end the blog post, I would say that the book gives you a lot of details in regards to how habit-forming products end up being so successful.

The book is extremely easy to read and can be life-changing.

I highly recommend it to anyone trying to understand consumer behavior or just get a good marketing insight into things

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