The Hook Model – Staying top of mind to the consumer


Jon White

June 2, 2016

I love the human psyche especially in marketing. Did you know most fast food logos use red and yellow? One triggers your appetite and the other triggers the feeling of happiness. Did you know that most slot machine musical arrangements are in the key of C? This is because the key of C major is pleasing and harmonic to the human ear, which compliments and enhances your excitement especially when you win the big prize! Where are these marketing “powers” being focused today you ask? Answer: online products and services to create lifelong subscribers and endorsers.

Although I strongly feel the number is higher, it is reported that 79% of Americans check their phone before getting out of bed in the morning. To go further, tech insiders say that one third of Americans check their phone as much as 150 times per day! What is causing this compulsion? Where does it begin? How does it manifest? Tech marketer and author, Nir Eval, proposes what he calls “The Hook Model”.

In his book “Hooked,” Eval states that by mastering habit-forming designed products, companies are that much more prone to success as they stay “top of mind” to the consumer. Attach your product to internal triggers. Habit-forming companies link themselves to users’ daily routines and emotions. How do products create habits? They manufacture them. Guide users through a series of experiences, or what is termed “hooks.” The more the user runs through them, the more likely they are to form a habit around your product. So what is this magical blueprint to build habit-forming products? It’s four phases that get users devoted to your product or service. 

Step 1: The Trigger. There are two types of triggers: external and internal. Habit-forming products start with external triggers such as an email, a web link or an app icon on a phone. This begins the attachment to the internal trigger. 

Step 2: The Action. A behavior done in anticipation of a reward — the ease of performing the action and the psychological need to do it. For example, the ease of a tap on a social media icon from your phone to get instant status, tweets and photos.

Step 3: Variable Reward. This step is where the internal craving begins. It’s one of the most powerful tools companies implement to hook users. Research shows levels of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, surge when the brain is expecting a reward. Introducing variability multiplies this effect, creating a focused state which surpasses areas of the brain associated with judgement and reason while activating the parts associated with wanting and desire. This can also backfire if not done correctly and the Variable Reward can cause user retention to plummet. A Variable Reward is the constant need to refresh social media feeds to get the latest and greatest from the social media world. Or the multiple status updates on Facebook, photo uploads on Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat; the constant flow of tweets throughout the day to get those likes, thumbs up, retweets, pins and more. 

Step 4: The Investment. This increases the odds that the user will go thru the hook phase again in the future. The investment occurs when the user puts something into the product or service such as time, data, effort, social capital or money.The investment implies an action that improves the service for the next go-round. Inviting friends, stating preferences, building virtual assets and learning to use new features are all investments that users make to improve their experience. These commitments can be leveraged to make the experience more engaging, the action easier, and the reward more exciting every time through the hook cycle. 

The fact that we have access to the web thru multiple devices allows companies to affect consumers behavior much easier than ever. The faster a company can process user data, the better the product or service will be and the more likely the user will be a “lifer.” Eval also adds that building habit-forming products and services has been touted as a “super power.” If used incorrectly, bad habits are formed. 

Where do you see the “Hook Model” being used? It’s everywhere! Facebook likes, Pinterest Boards, Tweets, Periscope live streams, texts, emails etc. We are all hooked, and we don’t even know it. And if we do, we probably aren’t going to do anything about it. 

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