The Hook Model: How to Create Addictive Products

The Hook Model: How to Create Addictive Products

What is the hook model? How can a product manager use it to create products that your users keep coming back to?

These are just a couple of questions we try to answer for you in the article. Intrigued? Keep reading then!


  • The Hook Model is a book by Nir Eyal that helps product teams build habit-forming and addictive products.
  • The aim of the hook model is to make the user see your product as the obvious solution to their problem; this happens through repeated exposure until using your product becomes a routine behavior.
  • The model can help you increase customer retention and reduce the costs associated with acquiring new customers.
  • Product managers can use the Hook Model for product discovery, while marketers identify ways to attract new customers, and development teams develop product specs and prototypes.
  • The model consists of 4 stages: trigger, action, variable reward, and investment.
  • Triggers are what make the user engage with the product and they can be either internal or external.
  • An internal trigger is an intrinsic need to use the product, for example, to satisfy the need to belong.
  • External triggers are divided into Paid Triggers, Earned Triggers, Relationship Triggers, and Owned Triggers.
  • Action is the interaction with the product necessary to experience its value.
  • Variable rewards are the value the product delivers.
  • We distinguish three types of rewards: Rewards of the Self, Rewards of the Hunt, and Rewards of the Tribe.
  • During the Investment phase, users spend more time and resources using the product.
  • As the users commit more time, they get more proficient and shorten the time needed to reach the reward stage; the easier it is to get rewards, the more often they use the product.
  • Userpilot can help you design external triggers. You can also use it to analyze customer behavior and identify friction points while in-app guidance can help them reach the reward stage more easily.

What is the Hook Model?

The Hook Model is a methodology that you can use for addictive services or products which your users will come back to again and again.

The main aim of the model is to create a customer habit. This is done by creating a link between the customers’ problem and the solution you are offering and reinforcing it through repeated exposure to the product.

When it happens often enough, the customers will see your product as the obvious option whenever they face the problem and will keep coming back.

Who created the hook model?

The Hook Model was developed by Nir Eyal, an entrepreneur, a lecturer, a writer, and a behavioral economist.

The model was born out of years of research, practical and consulting experience, during which Nir worked with companies to help them develop products that capture users’ widespread attention. His goal was to facilitate habit formation in users so that they return to it whenever they come across a similar challenge.

hooked model book by Nir Eyal

Why is the Hook Model Important?

Retaining current users is way easier and cheaper than attracting new ones.

If your product team manages to create a habit in their users and make them see the product as a go-to answer to their problems, you can reduce your advertising costs considerably.

If your users are ‘hooked’ on the product, your marketing team will have less work trying to keep users engaged and stopping them from churning.

Of course, the sooner in the product development process you manage to achieve that, the better.

When can the Hook Model be used?

The Hook Model is to use products that are more competitive because users return to them as a matter of habit.

In SaaS, the model gives the product teams the tools they need to develop products with high customer engagement rates. They can use them at any stage of the product development process.

From a product management perspective, it is a valuable product discovery tool. It can help you identify users’ needs and the best ways to satisfy them.

The marketing team can use the Hook Model to identify the best ways to attract new customers, while development teams can leverage it to develop product specifications and build prototypes.

What are the 4 stages of the Hook Model?

The Hook Model is based on a cycle that consists of four main stages: Trigger, Action, Variable Reward, and Investment.

The Hook Model.

Triggers are what motivate the user to engage with the product. We divide them into external and internal ones.

External triggers

External triggers are the factors that bring the user to the product.

Paid Triggers require an investment, like paid ads, to attract prospective customers. This category also includes emails or in-app messages which prompt the user to engage with the product – or re-engage with it, like in the Grammarly example below.

grammarly external trigger

Products like Userpilot allow you to create in-app notifications, like tooltips or modals, which give your customers a nudge to use a product or feature.

Earned Triggers also require investment but you are not spending your money but time. They include media mentions or SEO content that bring attention to the product.

Relationship Triggers rely on the word of mouth for their effectiveness. When your users are happy with your product, they will work for you and spread the word about it. This could be via social media posts or referral codes.

If a person you trust vouches for a product, you are more likely to trust it yourself – way more than a paid advert. That’s why this is a very powerful way of capturing the attention of prospective customers.

Owned Triggers are the most effective ones because they have already won a place in your users’ lives. These could be newsletter subscriptions or notifications that the users have enabled.

Because the user has chosen ‘to invite’ the triggers into their lives voluntarily, they see them as less intrusive. As users see them regularly, they are more likely to act on them.



Internal triggers are the memories, associations, and feelings that make the users want to engage with the product.

They are trickier to map than external triggers because they are often less tangible, but understanding them is the key to successful product development. Without knowing what your users need or want, you are not able to develop a product that delivers value.

The same is true for marketing. You can try all the external triggers you have up your sleeve but they won’t work if the user doesn’t want to use your product.


The Action is the absolute minimum of interaction needed for the user to experience the reward.

For a search engine, the action would be as simple as running the search to get the information you need. For an online retailer, the process would be more complex, and it would include steps like searching for the item, choosing one, putting it in the basket, checking out, and so on.

As a product manager or product designer, you want to minimize the time and effort needed to get the reward. Why is this important?

The more difficult the activity is to perform, the higher the motivation levels of the user need to be for them to carry on and complete it.

If your users’ motivation is high, they are likely to keep trying for longer. If, on the other hand, their motivation is low, they will give up more easily if the friction level is high.

The Fogg Behavior Model explains an important principle behind the Hook Model
The Fogg Behavior Model explains an important principle behind the Hook Model.

Variable reward

A reward is a goal that the users want to achieve when they engage with the product. In other words, this is the value they experience.

Rewards of the Self are the feelings of self-fulfillment and satisfaction resulting from completing an action. They are really powerful for habit formation. Achieving a certain level of proficiency could be an example, like in Duolingo.

An example of a Reward of the Self from Duolingo
An example of a Reward of the Self from Duolingo.

Rewards of the Hunt are the material benefits that we try to secure, for example, a good deal in an online shop or unlocking a new skill level.

They are way more tangible than the Rewards of the Self, so way easier to map out and leverage, like in the example below. ClickUp uses a monetary incentive to encourage users to watch their videos.

click up rewards users to keep them coming back

Rewards of the Tribe are social rewards. We receive them from our interactions with other people.

Social media relies greatly on this kind of reward. People feel a sense of satisfaction when they get positive feedback in the form of likes or comments from their peers.

To harness the power of social rewards, Asana introduced Celebrations in tasks. Users can like, comment, and even add gifs and small creatures to thank or congratulate their teammates.

rewards of the tribe example by asana


Investment is the time and effort spent on performing the actions on a product. There are two main processes at play here.

If the customer is satisfied with the reward, they spend more time using the product or service.

By working with a product, the user develops their skill level and so reduces the time they need to achieve the reward. And as we already know, the easier it is to use the product, the more likely they are to use the product again.

In SaaS, this translates into product stickiness. The more the user uses the tool, the more value they get.

The increasingly higher levels of investment, be it of time or money, also mean higher switching costs. For example, migrating all your customer behavior data from one platform to another would be expensive and time-consuming if you’ve been collecting it for a while.

As a result, it gets increasingly harder to leave the product. If you offer a solid product, your competitors would have a really hard job trying to steal your clients.

Examples of companies using the Hook Model

Let’s now have a look at a few examples of how SaaS companies use the Hook Model.


Tinder uses the Hook Model to develop long-term user behavior habits
Tinder uses the Hook Model to develop long-term user behavior habits.


Tinder relies on both a combination of external and internal triggers.

It is one of the best-known dating apps, so it gets a lot of publicity. As lots of people use it, many with good results, it’s reputation grows. The company also invests in advertising to increase its customer base.

These are, however, underpinned by incredibly powerful internal triggers like the feelings of loneliness, and the need to be loved


Unlike in other dating apps, the minimum action is really streamlined.

The initial setup of the account is straightforward, and you don’t even need to write anything about yourself if you don’t want to. Just upload some photos and you are ready to start.

The action of looking for a potential partner requires no effort whatsoever, you just swipe right or left, depending on whether you like the person or not.


Rewards come in a number of forms.

It could be the buzz of seeing new potential mates on the screen or the excitement of matching up with someone we fancy.

Some people may be rewarded with funny banter with their matches while others by meeting interesting people and going on dates.


When the user gets the rewards they expect or at least see a chance they could get them, they spend more time swiping. They also tweak their profile settings, upload better photos, or write more engaging bios to get better results.

This increases their effectiveness and reduces the time needed to get rewarded.



Hubspot offers free inbound marketing training. The certification is recognized by industry professionals and there are no hidden caveats, so this is a very attractive offer. This is how the company manages to attract the attention of potential clients.


Once the users start working with Hubspot for the purposes of their certification, they see that the product is incredibly user-friendly and very simple to use compared to other CRMs.

Thanks to that, they are able to complete their jobs more efficiently and realize their objectives more effectively.


The rewards come in different flavors.

To start with, they use the Reward of the Hunt: Hubspot delivers value and allows their users to deliver value for their customers.

There are also Rewards of the Tribe in the form of badges issued to partner agencies.

hubspot rewards partner agencies with badges


Hubspot is a comprehensive inbound marketing platform. Social media, landing pages, email campaign templates, sales software, you name it. What’s more, you can automate it all to streamline your processes and make the lives of your marketing team so much easier.

The more the users use Hubspot, the greater their commitment grows. Of course, theoretically, they could switch to another product. However, in practice, even if a competitor offers the same functionalities and is as user-friendly, it would still be hard to justify the effort.


The Hook Model is a very powerful methodology. Your product team can use it for product discovery, development, and marketing.

If you would like to learn how Userpilot could help you with building habit-forming products, click the link to get a demo!

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