June 8, 2023
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Hexavian Book Review – Hooked by Nir Eyal

Established Habits Are Hard to Replace or Change

“So why haven’t more Google users switched to Bing? Habits keep users loyal. If a user is familiar with the Google interface, switching to Bing requires cognitive effort. Although many aspects of Bing are similar to Google, even a slight change in pixel placement forces the would-be user to learn a new way of interacting with the site. Adapting to the differences in the Bing interface is what actually slows down regular Google users and makes Bing feel inferior, not the technology itself.” – Nir Eyal

Everybody forms habits over time. It is tough to give up smoking as a new year’s resolution because of our habits. We develop routines that are ingrained in our daily lives, which is why breaking those routines is so challenging.

Habits are behaviours we engage in without realizing it. From a psychological perspective, habits are essential time and energy-saving mental shortcuts. We frequently repeat what worked previously because our minds are constantly seeking for methods to be more effective. As a result, we repeatedly repeat certain behaviours.

It might be difficult to permanently change a habit. The research cited by Nir Ayal demonstrates that altering our patterns won’t erase the brain circuits connected to that routine. The previous habit’s neural connections are still there in our brains and are quickly reactivatable. For instance, two thirds of alcoholics resume drinking within a year of completing a detox treatment.

Nir offers advice on how to successfully form a new habit. First, repetition is important. The neural connections developed in your brain become stronger the more often you repeat a behavior. Nir cites a research where it was shown that pupils who frequently flossed their teeth were more likely to stick with the habit than those who were instructed to only floss occasionally.

Without repetition, the habit you want to develop must be really valuable to you. You must have faith that your life will be significantly affected by this new habit. Our usage of the online retailer Amazon is one behavior that isn’t regular but nonetheless happens because of its high value. Even if we don’t use Amazon frequently, we still have the habit of shopping on Amazon rather than at other websites. We all have a tendency of purchasing on Amazon, even if it is just sometimes because of the direct price comparison of several things that it offers.

Create Products That Are Habit-Forming

The world’s most lucrative ventures and goods are those that become habits. Products that encourage habit formation have a way of slipping into our everyday routines. Our cellphones serve as the ideal illustration of this. Our lives are significantly impacted by smartphones. Most individuals regularly check their phones for messages and notifications.

Nir lists a few benefits of marketing habit-forming products:

  • Long-term clients are drawn to them. Your clients are likely to purchase from you again since habits are hard to break. Based on the overall cash flow these clients will generate, they are more valuable. Nir uses Facebook as an illustration of how this occurred, explaining how users’ routines on the site contributed to its popularity. Further habits were created once these consumers invited their friends. Facebook was becoming a habit rather than a one-time tool.


  • Products that foster habits are in a good competitive position. How hard it is to break a habit serves as more evidence of the effectiveness of these items. Once a client develops a habit around your product, a rival product will need to be noticeably superior to yours. To illustrate this concept, Nir offers the example of QWERTY keyboards. Despite the introduction of several more user-friendly and efficient keyboard layouts, many people still like the QWERTY layout. They just have a habit of typing on this layout today, not because it is a superior layout.
  • Habit-forming items provide more pricing variety. Customers get dependent when they become accustomed to utilizing your goods. This dependence is frequently sturdy enough to endure fluctuations in price. Online games that are initially free to play are mentioned by Nir as having this benefit. This game becomes routine for players. When the free-to-play option runs out, they are then prepared to pay to continue.

“As the machine scanned the blood flow in the various regions of their brains, the tasters were informed of the cost of each wine sampled. The sample started with a $5 wine and progressed to a $90 bottle. Interestingly, as the price of the wine increased, so did the participant’s enjoyment of the wine. Not only did they say they enjoyed the wine more but their brain corroborated their feelings, showing higher spikes in the regions associated with pleasure. Little did the study participants realize, they were tasting the same wine each time.” – Nir Eyal

The Four-Staged Hook Model

Nir introduces the Hook Model as a cycle that can be utilized to successfully make your company’s products habit-forming. The Hook Model consists of four steps which have to be repeated continuously. After repetition, the users will start to form a habit around your products.

The Trigger – A customer must be motivated to utilize your product for the first time by an outside occurrence. A compelling TV commercial is a frequent trigger.

The Action: The action refers to the steps that must be taken before a consumer may use a product. Purchasing a subscription or joining an online group are two examples.

The Reward – After using this product, the customer should feel satisfied. Particularly, this product must meet the demands that the customer anticipated being satisfied when they encountered the trigger.

The Investment – In order to use your goods, the customer will have made a significant investment. This might be time, cash, private information, or data.


Importantly, this model is a cycle. After the final step, the consumer is led back to the start of the cycle. The four steps are then repeated over and over until a habit starts to form. The consumer will start to develop their unique internal triggers instead of external ones. These consumers will then have an impulse to use your product without the need for external influences. 

Internal triggers will keep becoming stronger until a consumer’s interaction with your product becomes unconscious. They need not even consider utilizing your goods. They’ll simply go ahead and do it. By this time, the cycle has developed into an uncontrollable domino effect that will be very challenging to reverse.


An intriguing aspect of how our long-term behaviors develop is described by this concept. Understanding these habits is crucial for the success of your organization. The four stages of the Four-Stage Hook Model will each be discussed in more detail in the sections that follow.

External Triggers


The Hook Model’s cycle needs a spark to get started in order for habits to take hold. People don’t just decide they want to use your product one day. This prospective customer must be encouraged to turn into a real consumer by an outside factor. Targeted or generic marketing and recommendations from friends and family are the most frequent external triggers.

In order for products to become ingrained in a consumer’s behaviors, external triggers are required. These outside factors, which Nir refers to as summons to action, might occur in many ways. For instance, some companies may use conventional advertising in an effort to attract new clients. In contrast, businesses like Facebook depend on viral dynamics. A domino effect begins when one client develops a habit of using Facebook. The reach of the product is greatly expanded via word of mouth. One external trigger subsequently generates millions of additional external triggers for other people.

According to Nir, triggers can only be successful if they provide the user a limited number of action options. Overly complex external triggers do not elicit positive responses from consumers. Therefore, implementing complex and perplexing external triggers will probably result in fewer customers engaging with your product. Nir uses an illustration to illustrate his idea. Consider registering for a social networking site, but the process takes an hour. This type of barrier will make it far less likely that people will use your product, much alone make a habit of using it. A simple trigger should thus always take precedence over a complicated trigger.

Internal Triggers


As it was previously said, habit formation depends on how frequently we use a thing over time. Businesses can’t only rely on outside factors to persuade customers to use their product regularly. This would be costly and based on luck. Internal triggers are therefore a crucial component in developing habit-based goods.

Nir explains that we frequently turn to products to address our concerns. These issues typically have to do with avoiding discomfort or pursuing pleasure. Consider why we purchase things like food, clothing, or cellphones as an illustration. We find pleasure in each of these things: we like the flavor of food; we take pleasure in dressing in styles that compliment our personalities; and Phones provide us access to entertainment and the chance to form social networks. However, other discomforts like hunger, cold, and social isolation also help us avoid pain.

The secret to creating internal triggers is getting customers to associate your product with a desired outcome. Either avoiding pain or pursuing pleasure should be the intended outcome. As soon as this mental association is made, you have an internal trigger with a favorable association since the product assisted in resolving an issue.

Negative emotions, according to Nir, are the most potent internal triggers. When we are feeling negative emotions, we are more prone to look for habitual problem-solving goods. For social media and smartphone, for instance, many of us have internal triggers. These triggers include everything from boredom to the strain of uncertainty. We then develop routines that enable us to either let go of these feelings or transform them.

Consumers are compelled to utilize the product more frequently by internal triggers. Internal triggers, on the other hand, are merely hints that persuade customers to utilize your product. Making a product a habit still requires motivation.

Every Product Needs a Motivation


A trigger by itself won’t motivate customers to take action. According to Nir, action is only taken when three prerequisites are satisfied: a trigger, a motive, and the capability. Although triggers are necessary, customers also need to want to interact with your product. Nir suggests that businesses boost the drive behind their products as a result.

The user’s capacity to utilize the product is the easiest motivator that a firm can attach to it. Don’t try to motivate users more by offering them irrational incentives. Instead, if a product is inexpensive and simple to use, you are more likely to draw buyers. Nir advises streamlining the processes required to utilize your product and giving customers what they want from it in terms of results. You should appeal to our human urges since emotions will always be an important driving component. In order to enhance the probability that buyers would use your product, use emotionally engaging advertising. Pay special attention to feelings of pleasure.

Utilize Variable Rewards


The ability to motivate clients to test a product is essential. But if we don’t deliver the outcomes the client wants, we can’t keep this drive. Customers must use a product regularly for it to become ingrained in their habits, thus it must function flawlessly each and every time. In other words, the product must consistently fulfill its claims.

Despite the need of consistent results, you should also apply flexible rewards. According to studies, the desire for rewards triggers a higher emotional response than actually obtaining them. In order to persuade customers to make a habit of using your product, anticipation is crucial. Customers won’t be as enthusiastic about the goods if the reward is predictable. As a result, you desire regular rewards at various levels. Social media platforms frequently use a variable rewarding strategy. You can find a mix of posts, videos, polls, and photos on Twitter and Facebook. What will appear next when scrolling through these feeds is always a mystery.This unpredictability is what brings customers back again and again to these social media platforms.


Finally, these benefits should always be related to the user’s original motive for using the product, in addition to offering varied rewards. To illustrate this concept, Nir uses the example of internet forums for questions and answers. Most people begin contributing to question-and-answer sites like Quora because they long for the benefit of being recognized in public. They discovered that certain websites’ attempts to reward them with cash were unsuccessful. These incentives no longer matched the consumers’ initial driving forces.


Customer Investment Encourages Habits


Customers may put time, money, effort, or even their personal information into your product. After making one of these investments in your product, customers are more inclined to use it again. According to research, when we make an investment in something, we appreciate it more. One research, for instance, found that we place higher value on something we produced ourselves than on something that was manufactured by someone else that is precisely equivalent. Similar to this, imagine you’ve created a social network community and profile with memories-filled photographs. A new social network won’t hold as much significance for you in that situation as the previous one does.


Secondly, people strive to maintain consistency in their actions. According to studies, our past behavior generally serves as a reliable indicator of our future behavior. Therefore, if we use a product often enough to feel like we’ve invested in it, we’ll probably continue to do so.


Finally, we often change our worldview to fit our behavior, which leads to an increase in that conduct under the new worldview. Nir uses the first times we would have tried beer or wine as an example. We probably didn’t like the flavor, but we kept tasting it because some people prefer drinking alcohol. You eventually grow used to the taste of the booze and begin to appreciate it. This is an illustration of how your actions might affect your preferences. Investment in a product might result in the same outcome. Our choices are altered through investments, and we finally grow reliant on the good.


Habit-Building Products Should Be Done Responsibly


This book is built on the concept of hooking readers with a product. However, when the phrase “hooked” is used, addiction is the first thing that springs to mind. Nir underlines the significance of organizations implementing the Hook Model ethically. Building careless habits is just manipulation.


Nir advises that businesses determine if they are habitually forming behaviors appropriately or irresponsibly by asking themselves two questions:


  • Does the product enhance the users’ lives?
  • Would the entrepreneur use the product themselves?

It’s quite probable that your business is participating in irresponsible habit-building if the answer to both of these questions is no.


Every business is accountable for how its products impact its consumers. However, when using the Hook Model, this impact is accentuated. Therefore, when attempting to apply the Hook Model, businesses must take great care to make moral judgements.

Know Your Product and What Your Customer Wants


Every business owner wants to make a product that consumers will want to use repeatedly. Having loyal consumers is amazing and advantageous for business. To use the Hook Model, you must, however, be familiar with both your consumers and your goods.

The first thing you must decide is whether or not your product should be habit-forming. It’s not necessary for new items to develop habits in order to be profitable. So, before buying something, always consider whether it needs to become a habit. For instance, buying life insurance is a one-time transaction. It serves no use to waste time attempting to persuade them to get life insurance. In addition to habit formation, there are various methods of attracting clients for life insurance. Use habit-forming strategies solely for goods that depend on consumers’ ongoing and regular interaction.


Once you’ve made the decision to develop a habit-forming product, you need to consider both the demands of your target market and the advantages your product provides. Make sure your product satisfies the demands of your target market. Your product must consistently satisfy the needs of your customers so that they get used to it. Additionally, modifying the triggers and rewards you include in your Hook Model requires knowing the demands of your clients.


Imagine that you want to improve or enhance an existing product such that it becomes a habit-forming product. You ought to adopt a somewhat different strategy in that situation. Identifying your current regular users should be your first step. Next, determine how their habit came about. Then you may see how they are comparable to potential clients.


Concluding Point


Try to link the benefits of your product to the requirements of your audience, and take them regularly through the Hook Model. You have a chance to achieve great success if you can pull this off.



Eizu Uwaoma
Eizu Uwaoma







Eizu, ©Hexavia!

Strategy. Business StartUps and Corporate Restructuring Consulting

T: 08035202891

Uwaoma Eizu is the lead strategist at Hexavia! He is a graduate of Mathematics with two MBAs and over a decade of experience working with startups and big businesses. His core is in building startups and in corporate restructuring. He is also a certified member of the Nigerian Institute of Management, Institute of Strategic Management of Nigeria and the Project Management Institute, USA. By the side, he writes weekly for the BusinessDay newspaper.


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