Cognitive psychologists define habits as “automatic behaviors triggered by situational cues”: things we do with little or no conscious thought.5 The products and services we use habitually alter our everyday behavior, just as their designers intended.6 Our actions have been engineered. (Location 33)

While fans of the television show Mad Men are familiar with how the ad industry once created consumer desire during Madison Avenue’s golden era, those days are long gone. A multiscreen world of ad-wary consumers has rendered Don Draper’s big-budget brainwashing useless to all but the biggest brands. Today, small start-up teams can profoundly change behavior by guiding users through a series of experiences I call hooks. The more often users run through these hooks, the more likely they are to form habits. (Location 50)

Tags: advertising

These years of distilled research and real-world experience resulted in the creation of the Hook Model: a four-phase process companies use to forms habits. Through consecutive Hook cycles, successful products reach their ultimate goal of unprompted user engagement, bringing users back repeatedly, without depending on costly advertising or aggressive messaging. (Location 73)

Trigger A trigger is the actuator of behavior—the spark plug in the engine. Triggers come in two types: external and internal.8 Habit-forming products start by alerting users with external triggers like an e-mail, a Web site link, or the app icon on a phone. (Location 80)

Action Following the trigger comes the action: the behavior done in anticipation of a reward. The simple action of clicking on the interesting picture in her news feed takes Barbra to a Web site called Pinterest, a “social bookmarking site with a virtual pinboard.” (Location 90)

Companies leverage two basic pulleys of human behavior to increase the likelihood of an action occurring: the ease of performing an action and the psychological motivation to do it. (Location 94)

What distinguishes the Hook Model from a plain vanilla feedback loop is the Hook’s ability to create a craving. Feedback loops are all around us, but predictable ones don’t create desire. The unsurprising response of your fridge light turning on when you open the door doesn’t drive you to keep opening it again and again. However, add some variability to the mix—suppose a different treat magically appears in your fridge every time you open it—and voilà, intrigue is created. Variable rewards are one of the most powerful tools companies implement to hook users; (Location 97)

Note: Variable rewards are one of the most important ways to hook users

Research shows that levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine surge when the brain is expecting a reward.11 Introducing variability multiplies the effect, creating a focused state, which suppresses the areas of the brain associated with judgment and reason while activating the parts associated with wanting and desire. (Location 102)

When Barbra lands on Pinterest, not only does she see the image she intended to find, but she is also served a multitude of other glittering objects. The images are related to what she is generally interested in—namely things to see on her upcoming trip to rural Pennsylvania—but there are other things that catch her eye as well. (Location 106)

Investment The last phase of the Hook Model is where the user does a bit of work. The investment phase increases the odds that the user will make another pass through the Hook cycle in the future. The investment occurs when the user puts something into the product of service such as time, data, effort, social capital, or money. (Location 112)

However, the investment phase isn’t about users opening up their wallets and moving on with their day. Rather, the investment implies an action that improves the service for the next go-around. (Location 115)

Inviting friends, stating preferences, building virtual assets, and learning to use new features are all investments users make to improve their experience. (Location 116)

I believe the trinity of access, data, and speed presents unprecedented opportunities to create positive habits. When harnessed correctly, technology can enhance lives through healthful behaviors that improve our relationships, make us smarter, and increase productivity. (Location 144)

REMEMBER & SHARE Habits are defined as “behaviors done with little or no conscious thought.” The convergence of access, data, and speed is making the world a more habit-forming place. Businesses that create customer habits gain a significant competitive advantage. The Hook Model describes an experience designed to connect the user’s problem to a solution frequently enough to form a habit. The Hook Model has four phases: trigger, action, variable reward, and investment. (Location 156)

Habits are one of the ways the brain learns complex behaviors. Neuroscientists believe habits give us the ability to focus our attention on other things by storing automatic responses in the basal ganglia, an area of the brain associated with involuntary actions. (Location 178)

Habits form when the brain takes a shortcut and stops actively deliberating over what to do next.3 The brain quickly learns to codify behaviors that provide a solution to whatever situation it encounters. (Location 180)

Tags: habits

For example, companies selling infrequently bought or used products or services do not require habitual users—at least, not in the sense of everyday engagement. Life insurance companies, for instance, leverage salespeople, advertising, and word-of-mouth referrals and recommendations to prompt consumers to buy policies. Once the policy is bought, there is nothing more the customer needs to do. In this book I refer to products in the context of businesses that require ongoing, unprompted user engagement and therefore need to build user habits. I exclude companies that compel customers to take action through other means. Before diving into the mechanics of how habits are made, we must first understand their general importance and competitive benefits for businesses. Habit formation is good for business in several ways. (Location 199)

MBAs are taught that a business is worth the sum of its future profits. This benchmark is how investors calculate the fair price of a company’s shares. (Location 206)

CEOs and their management teams are evaluated by their ability to increase the value of their stocks—and therefore care deeply about the ability of their companies to generate free cash flow. Management’s job, in the eyes of shareholders, is to implement strategies to grow future profits by increasing revenues or decreasing expenses. (Location 207)

Tags: ceo

Providing Pricing Flexibility Renowned investor and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett once said, “You can determine the strength of a business over time by the amount of agony they go through in raising prices.”4 Buffett and his partner, Charlie Munger, realized that as customers form routines around a product, they come to depend upon it and become less sensitive to price. The duo have pointed to consumer psychology as the rationale behind their famed investments in companies like See’s Candies and Coca-Cola.5 Buffett and Munger understand that habits give companies greater flexibility to increase prices. (Location 216)

Note: A businesses ability to raise prices shows how depending customer's are on their product

Supercharging Growth Users who continuously find value in a product are more likely to tell their friends about it. Frequent usage creates more opportunities to encourage people to invite their friends, broadcast content, and share through word of mouth. Hooked users become brand evangelists—megaphones for your company, bringing in new users at little or no cost. (Location 237)

Facebook’s success was, in part, a result of what I call the more is more principle—more frequent usage drives more viral growth. As David Skok, tech entrepreneur turned venture capitalist, points out, “The most important factor to increasing growth is … Viral Cycle Time.”9 Viral Cycle Time is the amount of time it takes a user to invite another user, and it can have a massive impact. (Location 243)

Sharpening the Competitive Edge User habits are a competitive advantage. Products that change customer routines are less susceptible to attacks from other companies. Many entrepreneurs fall into the trap of building products that are only marginally better than existing solutions, hoping their innovation will be good enough to woo customers away from existing products. But when it comes to shaking consumers’ old habits, these naive entrepreneurs often find that better products don’t always win—especially if a large number of users have already adopted a competing product. (Location 252)

A classic paper by John Gourville, a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, stipulates that “many innovations fail because consumers irrationally overvalue the old while companies irrationally overvalue the new.” (Location 257)

Experiments show that lab animals habituated to new behaviors tend to regress to their first learned behaviors over time.12 To borrow a term from accounting, behaviors are LIFO—“last in, first out.” In other words, the habits you’ve most recently acquired are also the ones most likely to go soonest. (Location 285)

For an infrequent action to become a habit, the user must perceive a high degree of utility, either from gaining pleasure or avoiding pain. (Location 313)

In the Habit Zone A company can begin to determine its product’s habit-forming potential by plotting two factors: frequency (how often the behavior occurs) and perceived utility (how useful and rewarding the behavior is in the user’s mind over alternative solutions). (Location 330)

“Are you building a vitamin or painkiller?” is a common, almost clichéd question many investors ask founders eager to cash their first venture capital check. The correct answer, from the perspective of most investors, is the latter: a painkiller. Likewise, innovators in companies big and small are constantly asked to prove their idea is important enough to merit the time and money needed to build it. Gatekeepers such as investors and managers want to invest in solving real problems or meeting immediate needs by backing painkillers. Painkillers solve an obvious need, relieving a specific pain, and often have quantifiable markets. (Location 354)

Vitamins, by contrast, do not necessarily solve an obvious pain point. Instead they appeal to users’ emotional rather than functional needs. When we take our multivitamin each morning, we don’t really know if it is actually making us healthier. In fact, recent evidence shows taking multivitamins may actually be doing more harm than good. (Location 362)

A habit is when not doing an action causes a bit of pain. (Location 376)

My answer to the vitamin versus painkiller question: Habit-forming technologies are both. These services seem at first to be offering nice-to-have vitamins, but once the habit is established, they provide an ongoing pain remedy. (Location 380)

Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain are two key motivators in all species. When we feel discomfort, we seek to escape the uncomfortable sensation. In the next chapter, we will explore how emotions, often negative ones, trigger users to reach for solutions. For now, the important thing to remember is that habit-forming products create associations in users’ minds—and that the solution to their pain may be found in your product’s use. (Location 382)

Addictions, by definition, are self-destructive. Thus, it is irresponsible to make products that rely on creating and maintaining user addictions because doing so would mean intentionally harming people. A habit, on the other hand, is a behavior that can have a positive influence on a person’s life. Habits can be healthy or unhealthy, and you likely have several helpful habits you carry out throughout your day. (Location 387)

REMEMBER & SHARE For some businesses, forming habits is a critical component to success, but not every business requires habitual user engagement. When successful, forming strong user habits can have several business benefits including: higher customer lifetime value (CLTV), greater pricing flexibility, supercharged growth, and a sharper competitive edge. Habits cannot form outside the Habit Zone, where the behavior occurs with enough frequency and perceived utility. Habit-forming products often start as nice-to-haves (vitamins) but once the habit is formed, they become must-haves (painkillers). Habit-forming products alleviate users’ pain by relieving a pronounced itch. Designing habit-forming products is a form of manipulation. Product builders would benefit from a bit of introspection before attempting to hook users to make sure they are building healthy habits, not unhealthy addictions (more to come on this topic in chapter 8). (Location 398)

2 Trigger (Location 414)

External triggers are embedded with information, which tells the user what to do next. (Location 442)

Types of External Triggers Companies can utilize four types of external triggers to move users to complete desired actions: (Location 462)

Advertising, search engine marketing, and other paid channels are commonly used to get users’ attention and prompt them to act. Paid triggers can be effective but costly ways to keep users coming back. Habit-forming companies tend not to rely on paid triggers for very long, if at all. Imagine if Facebook or Twitter needed to buy an ad to prompt users to revisit their sites—these companies would soon go broke. (Location 463)

Paid Triggers (Location 463)

Earned Triggers (Location 468)

Earned triggers are free in that they cannot be bought directly, but they often require investment in the form of time spent on public and media relations. Favorable press mentions, hot viral videos, and featured app store placements are all effective ways to gain attention. Companies may be lulled into thinking that related downloads or sales spikes signal long-term success, yet awareness generated by earned triggers can be short-lived. For earned triggers to drive ongoing user acquisition, companies must keep their products in the limelight—a difficult and unpredictable task. (Location 468)

Relationship Triggers (Location 473)

One person telling others about a product or service can be a highly effective external trigger for action. Whether through an electronic invitation, a Facebook “like,” or old fashioned word of mouth, product referrals from friends and family are often a key component of technology diffusion. Relationship triggers can create the viral hyper-growth entrepreneurs and investors lust after. Sometimes relationship triggers drive growth because people love to tell one another about a wonderful offer. (Location 473)

Owned triggers consume a piece of real estate in the user’s environment. They consistently show up in daily life and it is ultimately up to the user to opt in to allowing these triggers to appear. For example, an app icon on the user’s phone screen, an e-mail newsletter to which the user subscribes, or an app update notification only appears if the user wants it there. As long as the user agrees to receive a trigger, the company that sets the trigger owns a share of the user’s attention. Owned triggers are only set after users sign up for an account, submit their e-mail address, install an app, opt in to newsletters, or otherwise indicate they want to continue receiving communications. (Location 485)

Owned Triggers (Location 485)

Yet external triggers are only the first step. The ultimate goal of all external triggers is to propel users into and through the Hook Model so that, after successive cycles, they do not need further prompting from external triggers. When users form habits, they are cued by a different kind of trigger: internal ones. (Location 493)

Internal Triggers (Location 495)

When a product becomes tightly coupled with a thought, an emotion, or a preexisting routine, it leverages an internal trigger. Unlike external triggers, which use sensory stimuli like a morning alarm clock or giant “Login Now” button, you can’t see, touch, or hear an internal trigger. Internal triggers manifest automatically in your mind. Connecting internal triggers with a product is the brass ring of consumer technology. For Yin, the young woman with the Instagram habit, her favorite photo app manufactured a predictable response cued by an internal trigger. (Location 496)

Emotions, particularly negative ones, are powerful internal triggers and greatly influence our daily routines. Feelings of boredom, loneliness, frustration, confusion, and indecisiveness often instigate a slight pain or irritation and prompt an almost instantaneous and often mindless action to quell the negative sensation. (Location 502)

“For example, participants with depressive symptoms tended to engage in very high e-mail usage … Other characteristic features of depressive Internet behavior included increased amounts of video watching, gaming, and chatting.” (Location 521)

The ultimate goal of a habit-forming product is to solve the user’s pain by creating an association so that the user identifies the company’s product or service as the source of relief. (Location 545)

As Evan Williams, cofounder of Blogger and Twitter said, the Internet is “a giant machine designed to give people what they want.”8 Williams continued, “We often think the Internet enables you to do new things … But people just want to do the same things they’ve always done.” (Location 550)

These common needs are timeless and universal. Yet talking to users to reveal these wants will likely prove ineffective because they themselves don’t know which emotions motivate them. People just don’t think in these terms. You’ll often find that people’s declared preferences—what they say they want—are far different from their revealed preferences—what they actually do. (Location 553)

One method is to try asking the question “Why?” as many times as it takes to get to an emotion. Usually, this will happen by the fifth why. This is a technique adapted from the Toyota Production System, described by Taiichi Ohno as the “5 Whys Method.” Ohno wrote that it was “the basis of Toyota’s scientific approach … by repeating ‘why?’ five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear.” (Location 572)

REMEMBER & SHARE Triggers cue the user to take action and are the first step in the Hook Model. Triggers come in two types—external and internal. External triggers tell the user what to do next by placing information within the user’s environment. Internal triggers tell the user what to do next through associations stored in the user’s memory. Negative emotions frequently serve as internal triggers. To build a habit-forming product, makers need to understand which user emotions may be tied to internal triggers and know how to leverage external triggers to drive the user to action. (Location 614)

Remember, a habit is a behavior done with little or no conscious thought. The more effort—either physical or mental—required to perform the desired action, the less likely it is to occur. (Location 637)

Fogg posits that there are three ingredients required to initiate any and all behaviors: (1) the user must have sufficient motivation; (2) the user must have the ability to complete the desired action; and (3) a trigger must be present to activate the behavior. (Location 643)

Let’s walk through an example Fogg uses to explain his model. Imagine a time when your mobile phone rang but you didn’t answer it. Why not? Perhaps the phone was buried in a bag and therefore difficult to reach. In this case your inability to easily answer the call inhibited the action. Your ability was limited. Maybe you thought the caller was a telemarketer or someone else you did not want to speak to. Your lack of motivation influenced you to ignore the call. It is possible that the call was important and within arm’s reach, but the ringer on your phone was silenced. Despite having both a strong motivation and easy access to answer the call, it was completely missed because you never heard it ring—in other words, no trigger was present. (Location 648)

Fogg states that all humans are motivated to seek pleasure and avoid pain; to seek hope and avoid fear; and finally, to seek social acceptance and avoid rejection. (Location 660)

Fogg describes six “elements of simplicity”—the factors that influence a task’s difficulty.6 These are: Time—how long it takes to complete an action. Money—the fiscal cost of taking an action. Physical effort—the amount of labor involved in taking the action. Brain cycles—the level of mental effort and focus required to take an action. Social deviance—how accepted the behavior is by others. Non-routine—according to Fogg, “How much the action matches or disrupts existing routines.” To increase the likelihood that a behavior will occur, Fogg instructs designers to focus on simplicity as a function of the user’s scarcest resource at that moment. (Location 735)

The Scarcity Effect In 1975 researchers Stephen Worchel, Jerry Lee, and Akanbi Adewole wanted to know how people would value cookies in two identical glass jars.8 One jar held ten cookies while the other contained just two. Which cookies would people value more? Although the cookies and jars were identical, participants valued the ones in the near-empty jar more highly. The appearance of scarcity affected their perception of value. (Location 844)

Tags: scarity

The Framing Effect Context also shapes perception. In a social experiment, world-class violinist Joshua Bell decided to play a free impromptu concert in a Washington, D.C., subway station.9 Bell regularly sells out venues such as the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall for hundreds of dollars per ticket, but when placed in the context of the D.C. subway, his music fell upon deaf ears. Almost nobody knew they were walking past one of the most talented musicians in the world. The mind takes shortcuts informed by our surroundings to make quick and sometimes erroneous judgments. (Location 864)

The Anchoring Effect Rarely can you walk into a clothing store without seeing signage for “30% off,” “buy one, get one free,” and other sales and deals. In reality these items are often marketed to maximize profits for the business. The same store often has similar but less expensive (yet not discounted) products. I recently visited a store that offered a package of three Jockey brand undershirts at a “buy one, get one half-off” discount for $29.50. After surveying other options I noticed a package of five Fruit of the Loom brand undershirts selling for $34. After doing some quick math I discovered that the undershirts not on sale were actually cheaper per shirt than the discounted brand’s package. People often anchor to one piece of information when making a decision. (Location 880)

Two groups of customers were given punch cards awarding a free car wash once the cards were fully punched. One group was given a blank punch card with eight squares; the other was given a punch card with ten squares that came with two free punches. Both groups still had to purchase eight car washes to receive a free wash; however, the second group of customers—those that were given two free punches—had a staggering 82 percent higher completion rate. The study demonstrates the endowed progress effect, a phenomenon that increases motivation as people believe they are nearing a goal. (Location 892)

Note: People's motivation increases as they feel they are nearing a goal. Handing people a loyalty card which is already partially complete drastically increases their chance a of completing

Stephen Anderson, author of Seductive Interaction Design, created a tool called Mental Notes to help designers build better products through heuristics.13 Each card in his deck of fifty contains a brief description of a cognitive bias and is intended to spark product team conversations around how they might utilize the principle. For example, team members might ask themselves how they could utilize the endowed progress effect or the scarcity effect to increase the likelihood of a desired user behavior. (Location 908)

As described by Dr. B. J. Fogg’s Behavior Model: For any behavior to occur, a trigger must be present at the same time as the user has sufficient ability and motivation to take action. To increase the desired behavior, ensure a clear trigger is present; next, increase ability by making the action easier to do; finally, align with the right motivator. Every behavior is driven by one of three Core Motivators: seeking pleasure and avoiding pain; seeking hope and avoiding fear; seeking social acceptance while avoiding social rejection. Ability is influenced by the six factors of time, money, physical effort, brain cycles, social deviance, and non-routineness. Ability is dependent on users and their context at that moment. Heuristics are cognitive shortcuts we take to make quick decisions. Product designers can utilize many of the hundreds of heuristics to increase the likelihood of their desired action. (Location 918)

The study revealed that what draws us to act is not the sensation we receive from the reward itself, but the need to alleviate the craving for that reward. (Location 960)

Variable rewards can be found in all sorts of products and experiences that hold our attention. They fuel our drive to check e-mail, browse the web, or bargain-shop. I propose that variable rewards come in three types: the tribe, the hunt, and the self (Location 992)

We are a species that depends on one another. Rewards of the tribe, or social rewards, are driven by our connectedness with other people. Our brains are adapted to seek rewards that make us feel accepted, attractive, important, and included. (Location 997)

The search for resources defines the next type of variable reward—the rewards of the hunt. The need to acquire physical objects, such as food and other supplies that aid our survival, is part of our brain’s operating system. (Location 1069)

them searching and scrolling, the company employs an unusual design. As the user scrolls to the bottom of the page, some images appear to be cut off. Images often appear out of view below the browser fold. However, these images offer a glimpse of what’s ahead, even if just barely visible. To relieve their curiosity, all users have to do is scroll to reveal the full picture (Location 1093)

Quora’s social rewards have proven more attractive than Mahalo’s monetary rewards. Only by understanding what truly matters to users can a company correctly match the right variable reward to their intended behavior. (Location 1154)

The magic words the researchers discovered? The phrase “But you are free to accept or refuse.” The “but you are free” technique demonstrates how we are more likely to be persuaded to give when our ability to choose is reaffirmed. Not only was the effect observed during face-to-face interactions, but also over e-mail. Although the research did not directly look at how products and services might use the technique, the study provides an important insight into how companies maintain or lose the user’s attention. (Location 1183)

REMEMBER & SHARE Variable reward is the third phase of the Hook Model, and there are three types of variable rewards: the tribe, the hunt, and the self. Rewards of the tribe is the search for social rewards fueled by connectedness with other people. Rewards of the hunt is the search for material resources and information. Rewards of the self is the search for intrinsic rewards of mastery, competence, and completion. When our autonomy is threatened, we feel constrained by our lack of choices and often rebel against doing a new behavior. Psychologists refer to this as reactance. Maintaining a sense of user autonomy is a requirement for repeat engagement. Experiences with finite variability become increasingly predictable with use and lose their appeal over time. Experiences that maintain user interest by sustaining variability with use exhibit infinite variability. Variable rewards must satisfy users’ needs while leaving them wanting to reengage with the product. (Location 1307)

The more users invest time and effort into a product or service, the more they value it. In fact, there is ample evidence to suggest that our labor leads to love. (Location 1346)

Reputation is a form of stored value users can literally take to the bank. On online marketplaces such as eBay, TaskRabbit, Yelp, and Airbnb, people with negative scores are treated very differently from those with good reputations. (Location 1488)

Reputation makes users, both buyers and sellers, more likely to stick with whichever service they have invested their efforts in to maintain a high-quality score (Location 1495)

Investing time and effort into learning to use a product is a form of investment and stored value. Once a user has acquired a skill, using the service becomes easier and moves them to the right on the ability axis of the Fogg Behavior Model we discussed in chapter 3. As Fogg describes it, non-routine is a factor of simplicity, and the more familiar a behavior is, the more likely the user is to do it. (Location 1499)

User retention is a challenge for any business, but especially for consumer mobile applications. According to a study by a mobile analytics firm, 26 percent of mobile apps in 2010 were downloaded and used only once.9 Further data suggests people are using more applications but engaging with them less frequently. (Location 1523)

REMEMBER & SHARE The investment phase is the fourth step in the Hook Model. Unlike the action phase, which delivers immediate gratification, the investment phase concerns the anticipation of rewards in the future. Investments in a product create preferences because of our tendency to overvalue our work, be consistent with past behaviors, and avoid cognitive dissonance. Investment comes after the variable reward phase, when users are primed to reciprocate. Investments increase the likelihood of users returning by improving the service the more it is used. They enable the accrual of stored value in the form of content, data, followers, reputation, or skill. Investments increase the likelihood of users passing through the Hook again by loading the next trigger to start the cycle all over again. (Location 1579)

You are now equipped to use the Hook Model to ask yourself these five fundamental questions for building effective hooks: What do users really want? What pain is your product relieving? (Internal trigger) What brings users to your service? (External trigger) What is the simplest action users take in anticipation of reward, and how can you simplify your product to make this action easier? (Action) Are users fulfilled by the reward yet left wanting more? (Variable reward) What “bit of work” do users invest in your product? Does it load the next trigger and store value to improve the product with use? (Investment (Location 1599)

Building an enterprise on ephemeral desires is akin to running on an incessantly rolling treadmill: You have to keep up with the constantly changing demands of your users. (Location 1716)

“build, measure, learn” methodology championed by the lean start-up movement. (Location 1912)

“Instead of asking ‘what problem should I solve?’ ask ‘what problem do I wish someone else would solve for me?’”2 Studying your own needs can lead to remarkable discoveries and new ideas because the designer always has a direct line to at least one user: him- or herself. (Location 1958)

Wherever new technologies suddenly make a behavior easier, new possibilities are born. (Location 2019)