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How to manufacture desire?

A standalone session by Nir Eyal, author of ‘Hooked’ and ‘Indistractable’ at Star FLOW 2020.

The second edition of Star FLOW – The Change Festival initiated by The Times of India kick-started on February 19, 2020, at The Leela Ambience, Gurugram. The first session of the event – ‘How to manufacture desire?’ by Nir Eyal, author of ‘Hooked’ and ‘Indistractable’ began with him sharing how the idea of his book ‘Hooked’ cropped up. He tells us it came out of the class that he taught at the Stanford School of Business.

“I didn’t write this book for companies like Facebook or Google, I wrote it for you. It was to democratize the techniques that use the very same psychology that keeps us glued to our phones,” Eyal stated.

In his session, he talked about the deep patterns behind how these products, that keep us glued, are designed. He began by asking – what is a habit? The definition he shared was it's the impulse to perform a behaviour with little or no conscious thought. “About half of what you do every single day is done through a habit.”

He further explained the building blocks of how to build a habit-forming product. He said, “This is how – it’s called the ‘Hooked Model’. It is defined as an experience to connect your user problems to your product with enough frequency to form a habit.”

How to manufacture desire?

Every ‘Hook’ has four steps: Trigger, Action, Reward, and Investment.

Trigger: A trigger is a called action that tells what to do next. It is of two types – external trigger (something in our environment that gives us a piece of information about what to do next) and internal trigger (information about what to do next is informed through an association in the user’s memory). Negative emotions are powerful internal triggers.

Action: It is defined as the simplistic behaviour performed in the anticipation of a reward. A quick Google search is an example of the action performed in the anticipation of results (the immediate reward).

According to BJ Fogg, founder and director of Behaviour Design Lab, for any behaviour to occur, we need motivation (the energy for action), ability (capacity to do a particular action) and trigger (either external or internal).

B = M + A = T

Reward: It is where you get what you asked for. Psychologist James Olds and neuroscientist Peter Milner discovered the reward mechanisms in the brain involved in positive reinforcement, and their experiments led to the conclusion that electrical stimulation could serve as an operant reinforcer. The way the brain gets us to act is not through the pleasure per se, but it's about stimulating the itch that we seek to scratch.

There are three types of variable rewards – tribe (search for social reward), hunt (search for resources), self (search for self-achievement). The variable rewards are not a free pass. Your product must address the itch that one seeks. There should always be a connection between the variable reward and the internal trigger.

Investment: The last step of the Hook model is ‘Investment’ which is also the most overlooked phase of the four steps. This is where users invest in future benefits. The point of the investment phase is to increase the likelihood of the user passing through the hook in the future.

The investment phase does it in two phases: by loading the next trigger and by storing value.