Hooked

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

Take a moment and ask yourself which items you use each and every day. Most likely, your smartphone, the applications you use often, as well as the websites you read the most are in that list. What makes these items so great that you’ve made them a part of your everyday life?

Hooked gives us insight into the psychological processes that help form habits as well as into how businesses can create items that take advantage of impulse.

You’ll become aware of why creating an item that forms habits will help your business increase sales at a rate and number that you’ve only ever dream of reaching.

Additionally, you’ll find out how come it’s so addictive to go through your Twitter feed. I can assure you that it’s not coincidental.

Lastly, you’ll get a better understanding about the ethical implications that come from items that form habits, thus ensuring that you yourself doesn’t end up turning into some kind of drug dealer that many can’t live without.

It’s difficult to change or replace established habits.

Each New Year’s Eve, people end up creating resolutions for themselves such as stopping to drink, eating healthier meals, or exercising more often. As soon as it’s midnight, we are one hundred percent intent on sticking to the resolution.

However, how come five days later the majority of us are laying on our couches, chips in one hand and a beer in the other?

In summary, this stems from our habits, which are the things that we’re so much more used to doing that we end up doing them unconsciously.

Habits arise since our brain is always looking for ways to save time. Therefore, in the majority of occasions, it’ll get us to do whatever had worked in the past. For instance, the habit of nail biting at times when you were nervous most likely came from an instance that your brain recalls, where the nail biting had helped your distress. Therefore, you end up doing it now without the need to actually think about it.

The problem with habits is that it’s not easy to change them for good. Research shows that even with an adjustment to our routines, the old habit neutral pathways stay within our brains and they aren’t difficult to bring back once more. The fact that two thirds of the alcoholics that complete a detox program begin to drink once more in the span of a year confirms the research.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that we have so much difficulty with an elementary New Year’s resolution. Therefore, it makes you wonder whether or not it’s possible to get a new habit successfully.

The most simple way to do so is to do it often. A study showed that the students that were keen on getting the habit of flossing on a daily basis were more likely to succeed the more often that they did it.

However, if it can’t be done regularly, the habit has to be incredibly useful in order for it to become habitual. Take, for instance, Amazon, the online retailer. The majority of people don’t shop on Amazon on a daily basis, however we still have the habit to go to it regardless of the fact that there are a number of other online stores.

How come?

The direct price comparison of Amazon amongst the other retailers is very useful, therefore users end up making it a habit to go shop there, despite not shopping each day.

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

When analyzing those companies and items that are the most successful, especially online, we can conclude that the majority have one main similarity. They form habits. Items that form habits are those that, with time, end up becoming a part of our everyday life. An example would be the smartphone since we’re so accustomed to looking at it, without thought, every morning, to see if we’ve got any new messages.

There are a lot of advantages to selling items to create habits.

For one, they help gain the attention of lasting buyers. Habits are very difficult to get rid of which is why shoppers will most likely end up using it for a long time, thus boosting the lifetime value to the business. This results in the creation of cash flow for a greater amount of time.

Additionally, customers really like letting their close ones know about those items that they’re addicted to, which results in them doing the advertising. For instance, Facebook became so big, so fast was due to the fact that people ended up getting into the habit of checking it. They also began to invite their friends as well as tagging them in both photos and other various posts, thus gaining the attention of even more users.

Next, items that create habits have a powerful competitive standing.

This is due to the fact that altering and getting new habits to replace the old ones is very difficult. Therefore, in order for your customers to take on a new item, it must be a whole lot better than the previous one. A small enhancement won’t cut it.

This can be backed up by the lasting success of the QWERTY- keyboard. It’s virtually impossible for layouts to compete, despite them being better, since people would have to get rid of the habit that they have now when typing on a QWERTY since it’s not a huge change.

Lastly, businesses have to become much more flexible when it comes to items that create items. That’s due to the fact that they’ve become reliant on the habit that keeps their habit in check, therefore they won’t react much to price changes.

For instance, users can initially play online games for free. However, with time, the freeplay option ends up going away. However, since they’ve gotten the habit of playing the game, they don’t mind paying in order to keep playing.

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

Thanks to the large number of advantages, businesses try hard to purposefully make items that create habits. However, how can it be done triumphantly?

They should attempt to stick to the Hook model. This model represents a cycle that has four steps in it. Whenever these steps are repeated often enough, the user will end up creating a habit around that item.

The four stages include:

  • The trigger, which is an outside event that offers us the chance to try the item for the first time. An example of this would be a TV commercial.
  • The action, which is what is necessary so that we can use the item. An example of this would be registering online to join the community.
  • The reward, which is the gratification of the necessity that initially drove us to do it. For instance, we want to be entertained in times when boredom is the driver.
  • The investment, which is something that has value and that we’ve invested in. An example would be time, money, or information.

The final stage takes us back to the beginning of the cycle since these steps can be done over and over. The user would end up creating internal triggers instead of external ones. As a result, they’ll have a strong impulse to use the item by their own will instead of due to an outside stimuli.

With time, internal triggers end up getting more powerful, therefore with time, the user won’t even contemplate whether or not they’ll want to actually use the item, but instead will just do it. This cycle ends up becoming a persistent chain reaction.

The Hook Model is a very interesting self reinforcing cycle that molds how we behave in the long run. Now, let’s break down a few of the individual steps.

To start the process of habit-building, products need an external trigger.

People don’t randomly get habits. They don’t just wake up in the morning and randomly establish that they’d like to become addicted to an application that makes their photos look retro. Instead, it’s a process. The initial step needs an outside trigger. In the example with the application, most likely, a friend had told them about it or an advertisement had gotten their attention.

The external trigger is crucial since the item at first wasn’t even a part of the person’s habits.

For instance, although you may go onto Facebook several times a day, you most likely had to have an external trigger that had caused you to start using it in the first place. That may have occurred thanks to an invitation that a friend had sent.

The external triggers are “calls-to-action” and they are capable of being different kinds of forms. They could be triggers that businesses pay for such as advertising, which helps promote people to use their items, or relationship triggers that require viral dynamics, which is when users get others to try out the item, such as in the case with Facebook.

In order for it to make an impact, the trigger has to offer the user the basic choice of actions that they can take. If the trigger is too difficult to understand, the user most likely won’t interact with the item.

For instance, suppose you want to sign up for a social networking site, however the registration page is confusing, for instance, or it takes too much time to fill out the registration information. Those type of hurdles will most likely cause you to just give up and leave the site. However, if they’ve got an easy “Register now” button, there’s a bigger chance that you’ll sign up and thus the trigger will have actually worked.

Once we develop internal triggers that make us use a product, we’re hooked.

As you’ve learned, frequency plays a major role in the creation of habits. If we end up using an item very often, there’s a greater chance that we’ll create a long-term habit all around it.

However, companies can’t depend completely on external triggers in order to make us use their items since frequent triggers are typically quite pricey, just as advertisements are, and they also rely too much on chance, such as whether a potential client will end up seeing an advertisement or not.

That means that in order for a business to lead a customer through the Hook model a few times and succeed, eventually, the trigger will have to end up coming from the customer themselves.

How is this done?

Typically we use items in order to fix any of the issues that we have. Most often, this has to do with staying away from pain or feeling any kind of pleasure.

For instance, try and think about why we purchase items such as food, clothing, or phones. Typically, this stems from us not wanting to suffer from some kind of pain such as hunger, the cold, or not connecting socially. It could stem from our want to feel the pleasure of being stylish or our want for entertainment on our way to work with the help of games. It could even be both.

If we end up making a mental connection between both the item and the solution that we are aiming for to a problem of ours, we create an internal trigger in order to use that item. It’ll end up getting a good association since it would’ve successfully been used in order to fix our problems.

Many times, the most powerful internal triggers that we have are negative emotions. For instance, the internal triggers that the majority of us have for both social networks as well as smartphones can range starting from boredom all that way to our fear of not being connected socially or the anxiety that comes from not knowing, which is why we Google anything that we don’t know in life.

As soon as we’ve created internal triggers for using an item, we begin to get an impulse to use it over and over again and more often as well. However, triggers can only be used as cues: we either will or won’t use an item depending on other factors and you’ll also figure out the next.

Every product needs to motivate and, most importantly, enable potential users to use it.

Have you ever gotten the chance to see a hypnotist hypnotize a volunteer in the crowd? If so, do you recall them asking the audience to say a specific trigger word out loud that way the “victim” ends up doing as the hypnotist tells them to.

Whether it be for a positive or a negative reason, with any items that form habits, the trigger by itself is not capable of getting a specific action to occur.

Based on a model of behaviour, a person only ends up acting as long as the three preconditions are realized: apart from the trigger, the person also has to be sufficiently motivated in order for the action to occur and they also have to be capable of doing so. If not, the trigger isn’t useful. As a result, businesses have to try to increase those aspects of their items, too.

If they aren’t able to do so for the both of them, businesses need to at least focus on boosting the user’s ability to actually use the item. This is due to the fact that it’s much simpler, let alone cheaper, to make an item easier to figure out to use rather than to boost the motivation of the user. This can be accomplished by simplifying the steps that are required to use an item. For instance, a social networking site that wants to help their users interact with their item should make the registration process as quick and easy as possible.

When it comes to motivation, users end up being motivated to take action whenever they get the outcomes that they would like out of an item. Overall, human motivation comprises of easy goals such as getting pleasure and staying away from pain, looking for hope and staying away from fear, as well as looking for social acceptance and staying away from rejection.

Emotions can also be a strong motivator. That’s why they are used frequently in advertisements. For instance, think about how sexual images are used often in order to advertise a majority of companies, even places such as fast food restaurants. This is due to the fact that advertisers are attempting to bring out emotions from their main audience, teenagers, by ensuring them pleasure.

As you’ve just learned, a trigger can make us use an item, granted that we can use it and that we would like to. However, what actually makes us keep using it, thus forcing a habit to be created?

Variable rewards are key in making users dependent on a product in the long term.

Although motivation is a pretty crucial part of getting us to try out an item, it’s not maintainable unless the item actually ends up giving us the results that we had expected.

For those users that want to use the item very often, it can’t go back on its promises of what it offers. This means that it has to reward us for our actions as well as make the outcome expected from it.

However, that on its own isn’t good enough in order to ensure that we’re motivated in the future. That is accomplished with variable rewards.

How come?

Research has shown that our desire for rewards ends up creating a stronger emotional reaction rather than getting the actual reward. As a result, anticipation has a huge part in it.

If users can predict what the reward will be, they won’t anticipate it as much or as fast in comparison to if the reward had been unpredictable. This is due to the fact that it has been confirmed that variability affects the chemistry in our brains in a way that boosts our push towards rewards. For instance, think about how scrolling through your Twitter feed gives you an unpredictable mixture of both news and text along with how rewarding you feel whenever you’re reading it.

In order to really make users dependant on an item, a mixture of various types of rewards have to be used. They can be related to social needs such as getting “likes” or friend requests on Facebook, getting resources such as winning at a slot machine, or to becoming personally satisfied through, for instance, the completion of a complex level of an online game.

However, in the end, the reward always has to relate to the user’s first motivation to use the item. For instance, in online question-and-answer forums, people typically begin adding their own thoughts since they want to get recognized by their peers, which is very rewarding. When a few sites had tried to give them money rewards instead, they came to the conclusion that it’s actually not that effective since they didn’t fall parallel to the user’s initial motivation.

If users have invested something, be it time, money or effort, into a product, a habit will likely follow.

Since you’re now aware that a trigger leads to an action, which gives the user a reward, what is the last step in the Hook model that causes them to go back to the trigger and onto another cycle?

To sum it up, it would mean investing. Whenever users invest something into an item, whether it be time, effort, money, or their own personal information, there is a bigger chance that they would use it once more.

How come?

For one, we perceive items as more valuable whenever we’ve put something into it. Some research proved this by showing that if we, on our own, created something with our hands, we see it as more valuable than the work of others. Also, if we were to put in time and effort to create, for instance, a social network online, we would value it much more.

Next, we need to be consistent with our behaviour. Research has shown that whatever we’ve done in the past is a decent indicator of what we’ll end up doing in the future. That means that should we feel as if we’ve invested in an item by using it often, we will most likely keep on using it in the long run.

Lastly, we tend to alter our world-view in order for it to complement our behaviour and after that, our new world-view will end up creating more of that behaviour.

For instance, try and think about the first time that you had tried either beer or wine. Did you like how it tasted? Most likely, no. However, since you noticed that other people were enjoying it, you continued to try it. Your behaviour impacted your taste until with time, you just got used to it and eventually, actually ended up liking it. Equivalently, as soon as users feel as if they’re invested in your item, they’ll most likely alter their own preferences that way they actually depend on it.

If that cycle of trigger-action-reward-investment ends up being run through a good amount of times, users will end up creating a habit revolving that item. In other words, they’ll be hooked.

The powerful strength of the Hook model additionally brings forward questions in regards to how it should be used in a responsible manner. Continue reading to find out how.

Companies should use the power of habit-building products responsibly.

Whenever we talk about getting users “hooked” on an item, the initial association implies addiction. Since the Hook-model assists businesses with altering the behaviour of others, it is imperative that they use it in a responsible manner. If not, they would be manipulating people, which is unethical. For instance, if a fast food company had begun to put in an addictive substance into their food, that would be considered unethical.

Occasionally, however, although manipulative items are technically deemed acceptable, this is true if they actually positively impact the lives of users. Therefore, although businesses such as Weight Watchers have essentially “manipulated” many of their customers into trying to lose weight, we most likely wouldn’t consider what they’re doing is wrong since the item positively influences their lives.

Therefore, how do businesses or entrepreneurs understand if they’re right or wrong in that situation.

Thankfully, they just need to ask themselves all of two questions:

Does the item end up positively influencing the lives of the users?

Would you actually use your own item?

If both of these questions are answered with a “no”, nine times out of ten, the item is unethical.

Take, for instance, this extreme case. A drug dealer would most likely really like to have their customers hooked on what they have. However, it won’t make their lives better and most likely, the dealer wouldn’t take it themselves.

However, maybe your business has an item that you would use, but it doesn’t really positively impact the lives of customers. In this case, it would be categorized as entertainment, which is justifiable.

Granted, in the end, each salesperson, product engineer, and entrepreneur is responsible for their item as well as the impact of their item. However, the strong power of the Hook model makes the moral responsibility even bigger, especially since that power can be used to help people fix their issues.

To use the Hook model effectively, you have to know your product and what your customer wants.

Each entrepreneur and product designer strives to make an item that’s successful and the people both use and rely on very often. The Hook model can help you accomplish that, however the practical application forces you to understand both your item and your customers on an intimate level.

For one, it’s crucial to understand that every single item does not have to help create habits. If you’re making a new item, or just improving an old one, you need to ask yourself whether or not it should actually help create habits.

For instance, life insurance policies don’t ever really need to be habit-forming since people usually just end up purchasing one and that’s all. Only the items that need a user to constantly and consistently interact with it will actually benefit from it becoming habit-forming.

If you are interested in making an item the creates habits, you need to begin by analyzing the needs of your customers a well as what exactly your item offers. This is ultimately due to the fact that your item has to give your users an answer to their problem as often as possible for them to end up creating a habit out of it.

If you’re making a new item, you’ll have to figure out what specific things your potential users are looking to gain and how you can give that to them. You can alter some parts for the Hook-model, such as the triggers and awards in order to fit the bill the best.

If, on the contrary, you want to either upgrade or improve an item that you already have, you should begin by identifying the habitual users that you currently have and figure out where the habit comes from. That may aide you in, for instance, seeing any similarities between the two. The information gained can help you with getting your new customers to develop the same habit.

In the end, there are a lot of ways to apply the Hook model- as many as there are items out on the market, as many as there are ways! However, as soon as you figure out how to connect your item’s offering to what your customers need and then get them to go through the Hook model as frequently as necessary, your item is guaranteed to be a success.

Final summary

Items that help create habits are the Holy Grail of all consumer businesses since they create a loyal customer base, which essentially sells themselves. People develop habits through the Hook model, which is where a trigger gets them to take the action, the action gives them a reward, and then the user ends up feeling invested since they will have spent so much time and effort. Afterward, the cycle starts over from the start.

Practical advice:

Try to form new habits.

A lot of people have difficulty trying to get new habits. However, the secret to developing a new habit, whether it be flossing or working out, is repetition. Regardless of the daily routine that you choose for yourself, you just need to do it often when you first begin so therefore, you’ll end up seeing it become a part of your daily life routine faster than you would’ve initially expected.

In order to figure out how an item that develops habits takes advantage of your simple psychology, attempt to pinpoint every different trigger that causes you to use items on a daily basis. Is that trigger internal or external? When you think about it in rational terms, do those items actually manipulate you into doing something bad, or do they make your life better?

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