The Hook Model: Forming product’s behavior

Hook Model Behavior

Why Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or even your current online email providers have so many users? Do these software’s founders have already understood somethings that we were not aware of? Did they intitate their product from Must-have or from Nice-to-have features? Hook model would help to explain the secret.

Key Takeaways

  1. Trigger to call customer to act from external or internal source
  2. Action: Customer was intrigue and go to our platform
  3. Variable Reward to offer variable reward to customer, so they will be eager to explore more to get more reward
  4. Investment to understand customer’s behavior, interest, data and therefore we can offer more relevant product, reward.

Why product manager should understand hook model?

Customer lifetime value is how long and how frequent user use a product. As one part of product manager’s tasks, ensuring customer lifetime value (CLTV) is a crucial mission and our question is What increase the CLTV? It is habit. Hook model was introduced by Nir Eyal would help you understand and intitally improve customer’s habit on your current product. The hook model devided into 4 phases: Trigger, Action, Variable Reward and Investment, this cycle repeats indefinitely.

Hook Model concept

Old habit die hard, the enemy of forming new habits is past behaviors. Example, let’s remember when you struggle to wake up early this morning, even when you vowed to do it yesterday. But once you formed your morning habit, it becomes a must and you commit to wake up early everyday, same as starting to run, to go to gym and to join your kickboxing class. Nir Eyal concluded that Habit-forming products often start as nice-to-haves (vitamins) but once the habit is formed, they become must-haves (painkillers).

Questioning yourselves: What user behavior do you want to make into a habit?

Hook model
Hook model


Trigger moves us to take action: external and Internal.

External triggers

  • Paid triggers: ads, search engine. Costly to keep users coming back, you should not rely on paid trigger for long.
  • Earned Triggers: free. Require investment in the form of time spent on public and media relations: featured app store, press mentions, hot viral videos.
  • Relationship triggers: people love to tell one another about a wonderful offer.
  • Owned triggers: app icon, newsletters, notification.

Internal triggers

Users are hooked by internal triggers but it is not formed overnight. It’s frequent but not always that negative emotions serve as internal trigger. Therefore you cannot see, touch or hear the internal trigger. We use Instagram, Facebook, Email, those bring engagement (likes, shares, comments) making us feel that we are apart of bigger group, feel accepted, feel happiness because our recent post have higher enagement than the previous one.


Ease of performing actions formed up by motivation and ability to perform that action. People usually seek pleasure and avoid pain, seek hope and avoid fear, seek social acceptance and avoid rejection, seek for mastering skills and goals.

Variable Reward

Human cursed by reward, espectially unpredictable rewards. As soon as your users don’t know what reward they will get, they will keep search for it. That’s why reward should be variable, there are 3 types of reward:

  • The tribe rewards: make us feel accepted, attractive, important and included. (like and comments offer tribal validation for those who shared the content).
  • The hunt rewards: hunt for food, hunt for money, hunt for information (fb scroll to have more information).
  • The self rewards: People desire to gain a sense of competency, mastery and completion (like game).

The most habit-forming products and service utilize one or more of the above 3 variable reward types.

Variable Rewards
Variable Rewards


When you first created your brandnew Facebook account, it had no value at all. But when you started to upload some family vacation photos, your new friends, old friends did engagement on it, you started to perceive your Facebook account value. Same things happened with your online reputation, number of your followers, your achievement on mastering skills (game), certificate for your online learning program. So the investment means:

  • The more effort we put into something, the more likely we are to value it.
  • We are more likely to be consistent with our past behaviors.
  • We change our preferences to avoid cognitive dissonance.
  • Storing Value: Content, data, followers and skills.

Users set future triggers during the investment phase: such as reminder in calendar, Tinder’s potential match send notification to both sides, make them more likely to return.

Start applying to your product

To build the Hooks for your product, you can practice on following questions:

  1. What do users really want? What pain? (internal trigger)
  2. What brings users to user service? (external trigger)
  3. What is the simplest action users take in anticipation of reward, and how can you simplify your product to make this action easier? (action)
  4. Are users fulfilled by the reward yet left wanting more? (variable reward)
  5. 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)


Eyal, N., & Hoover, R. (2014b). Hooked (1st ed.). New York, United States: Penguin Random House.

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