Best of The Month – Hooked
Kobus Cilliers | On 11, Dec 2019
Something of a controversial choice this month. ‘Hooked’ is pretty much the playbook for Silicon Valley start-ups intent on addicting customers to their products. The reason why seventy-nine percent of smartphone owners check their devices within fifteen minutes of waking up. And why industry experts believe that on average we check our phones around 150 times per day.
How did we get here? How is it that some apps can control the minds of their consumers? What makes these products addictive? 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 behaviour. Through consecutive “hook cycles,” these products reach their ultimate goal of bringing users back again and again without depending on costly advertising or aggressive messaging.
Hooked is based on Eyal’s years of research, consulting, and practical experience. He wrote the book he wished had been available to him as a start-up founder—not abstract theory, but a how-to guide for building better products. Hooked is written for product managers, designers, marketers, start-up founders, and anyone who seeks to understand how products influence our behaviour.
As with a large proportion of pioneers, Eyal goes to great lengths to stress the importance of not using his findings for immoral purposes. The whole of Chapter 6, ‘What Are You Going To Do With This’ is basically a plea to those using the Hook Model to act responsibly and ethically. Would you use this product yourself? Does it improve life (i.e. is what you’re doing meaningful)? These are the two questions he poses.
Unfortunately, like a lot of acolytes that follow the pioneer, the morality of the pioneer is very easily lost. It is comparatively easy to follow the Hook Model recipe found in the first five chapters, but rather more difficult to follow the guidelines there in the sixth.
Like all technologies, the Hook Model and the Hooked book are morally and ethically neutral. They can be used for good or bad. The fact that, if we look at today’s Social Media world in which billions of people have been deliberately and calculatedly addicted to trivial things, a majority of adopters have swung in the direction marked ‘easy’, should not stop those on the other side of the battle from reading the book. The social media playing field is not a level one, but if we all know the rules of the real (addiction) game, at least we can begin to do something to give customers a fighting chance of retaking control of their lives.
PS There’s a lot of TRIZ thinking in the Hook Model