Understanding Consumer Habits

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One of my reoccurring goals is to read two books every month—one book that will help me professionally and one book that will entertain me. This last month I read a book called Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products by Nir Eyal. This book was extremely applicable to marketing, so I thought I would share some of my thoughts on it.

hookcyclebook

As marketing students, we know that consumer habits can be a huge competitive advantage. Habits are acquired behavior patterns and are formed by performing an action on a frequent, regular basis. Since they are done so often, habits sometimes become automatic and don’t require much thought. Many companies—especially those selling products with short re-purchase cycles—attempt to get consumers to form a positive habit or a regular routine with one of their products.

…So, what formula are the successful companies using to build habits and routines with their customers?

The book Hooked covers the 4 main steps of building habits with consumers. The author calls these steps the “Hook Cycle”: trigger, action, reward, and investment. A consumer must go through these steps multiple times in order to form a habit. A trigger can be any external or internal que that motivates a consumer to buy/try a product or service. An action is what behavior the company wants the consumer to do—this can range from simply clicking a “Find Out More!” button to actually buying or using the product.  Once a consumer performs the action, a reward of some sort is expected—such as a positive experience. Then after the reward, a consumer may choose to invest more time or money into the product or service.  If a consumer begins to invest, it increases the odds that the consumer will go through another round of the “Hook Cycle.” The book goes into great detail to explain these steps—it’s definitely a good read! (Also, I wanted to explain that consumers must positivity benefit from going through the Hook Cycle and building a habit—otherwise, this could become more of an addiction and could be considered unethical. Remember the main objective should aim at building positive, trusting, and engaging relationships with customers).

hookcycle

I feel that this information is very applicable to marketing. A marketing campaign for a product or service should be designed with these steps in mind. For example, marketing efforts are extremely applicable during the trigger phase. Marketing tools such as advertisements, commercials, free samples/trials, and social media posts can create triggers, which are especially important if it is new product that is being introduced. These exposures of the product are external cues and need to be designed to motivate and/or remind people to try or use the product.

Another aspect where marketing could be integrated into the cycle is the reward phase. Brand positioning and marketing efforts should communicate what the reward is: social status, a fun experience, saving money, decreasing boredom, etc. Marketers should know their customers well enough to know what types of rewards will be useful and relevant….Do you have any other examples of how marketing efforts could be integrated into this “Hook Cycle?”

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