Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
Author: Nir Eyal
Publisher: Portfolio
Published: 11/4/2014
Why do some products capture widespread attention while others flop? What makes us engage with certain products out of sheer habit? Is there a pattern underlying how technologies hook us? Nir Eyal answers these questions (and many more) by explaining the Hook Model—a four-step process embedded into the products of many successful companies to subtly encourage customer behavior.

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products By Nir Eyal

Have you ever wondered why it is you can’t go the morning without your iPhone?

Or, even a few minutes?

How about why you can’t seem to start your day without a venti from Starbucks?

These items have made their way into your daily routine and now you have to have them or else your day just doesn’t feel right.

In “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” Nir Eyal tells us how companies use their knowledge of psychology to properly advertise their products to the public.

And, if you have your own business, then you’ll definitely want to scoop up this knowledge in order to create a campaign that no one can resist and in turn maximize your profits.

Key Points

  • You Can’t Always Change Old Habits

New habits are hard to form. And, that’s because the old ones are hard to break. Our minds automatically go to our old habits because that is what worked previously, so why not do it again?

The way to successfully adopt a new habit is by doing it over and over again. Once you begin to repeat the same activity, it will become routine.

  • Habit-Forming Products Produce High Revenues

A habit-forming product is one that makes its way into a consumer’s daily routine. Such as our iPhones, a laptop, or a watch.

“79 percent of smartphone owners check their device within 15 minutes of waking up every morning.” - Nir Eyal

Companies that sell habit-forming products usually have long-term customers. That’s because these products are in their everyday lives, so they must do the upkeep or get a new one if it breaks or its lost. Simply because they don’t know how to function without it.

These companies also get the benefit of word-of-mouth from their loyal customers who gush to their friends, families, and co-workers about these products. It’s like free advertisement. So less money out and more customers in!

Another perk of selling a habit-forming product is that it is hard to compete with. If consumers already love one product, it’s hard to get them to switch. Especially, if it’s a product that is in their daily routine.

Companies can also choose to charge more with habit-forming products because they understand that people rely on them.

  • The Four Stages

Nir Eyal tells us that there are four stages of the Hooked model. This model describes how consumers get addicted or hooked on a product.


  1. The Trigger: Something external such as an advertisement.
  2. The Action: What is required from us to use the habit-forming product. This could be downloading an app or signing up online.
  3. The Reward: Fulfillment and happiness from the purchase.
  4. The Investment: Whatever we’ve given for the product such as money or time.


These four stages are repeated over and over again. And, with this repetition, they start to internalize and become habit.

  • The Trigger Explained

The trigger is always external because it’s not in the person’s daily routine yet. This trigger could be an ad, but it could also be that another friend bought the product, so you just have to have it too!

“Users who continually find value in a product are more likely to tell their friends about it.” - Nir Eyal

A popular example of a trigger is when you get notifications from Facebook on your phone. Sure, you weren’t on your phone to look at Facebook, but if it pops up, of course you’re going to click on it.

  • Internal Triggers Make Us Hooked

If we have a product we use in our everyday lives, it’ll definitely start a long-term habit. Checking social media or taking Ubers are great examples of habit-forming products that turn on our internal cues.

A lot of habit-forming products are ones that help with pain or give pleasure to consumers. That’s because these are problems consumers want to solve, so they are actively looking for answers.

“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.” - Nir Eyal

That’s why companies make a mental connection with their consumers telling them that their product will solve their problems. When the customer feels positive after using the product, they will inevitably keep using it.

  • Products Need To Motivate Users

A trigger is no good without a call-to-action that will make the consumer buy the product. This means that it’s important to make everything simple and easy for the consumer. For example, a registration that take only one or two clicks compared to one that is pages long. A long registration could very well make a company lose a consumer because they simply didn’t have the patience.

Companies also play on emotional triggers. Animal rescue commercials playing Sarah McLachlan to get us to donate our paychecks is a classic example. But, so are fast food chains that show that a double Whopper will make us smile in satisfaction.

  • Rewards Create Routine

The reward of purchasing a product is what keeps us from using it and motivates us to repurchase it. That’s because we are getting pleasure from what we sacrificed to get it, sometimes our whole paycheck!

But, these habit-forming products only successfully make their way into a person’s routine by keeping their promises such as pain alleviation or pleasure.

To create a true dependent relationship on a product, companies tend to use different rewards together. For example, in social media you can interact with people in a number of different ways: Posts, DMS, Likes. It’s all so satisfying!

  • Investment In Products

In simple terms, the more money we spend on something or the more time we invest, the greater we will see the value of the product. That’s because we have given something up to have it. And, because we see value in the purchase we want to get our money’s worth by adding the use of it into our daily routines.

People will subconsciously make reasons for this high-value product to be present in their everyday lives. Even if they could very well manage without it!

  • Companies Shouldn’t Go Overboard

It’s great for a company to have their consumers get hooked on a product. But, there is a fine line between hooked and a total addiction. So, it’s important that companies use this hooked model responsibly.

For example, if a company was to be somewhat destructive toward a person’s health just to get them to keep using a product, that would be going way too far.

If the product is essentially good and gives pleasure to people’s lives, then there is no harm in taking advantage of the psychology of habit-forming products.

  • Above All, Know Your Customer

A company must know their audience. This is important for any business person when putting out advertisements. Proper knowledge of the targeted demographic is key to making big money!

Companies must research their customers needs and develop a product that correctly targets them. If companies want to revamp an old product or compete with a popular product, they must look to the habitual users for inspiration and see what would make them even happier.

The Main Take-Away

By using their knowledge of psychology and how habits form, companies can successfully sell habit-forming products, create a dependent community of consumers, and gain big bucks in return!


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