Growth is Less About Building Habits and More About Breaking Them

Nir Eyal’s Hook model is pretty popular these days within Growth Hacking circles. The model goes something like this:

  • Trigger the user to do something
  • The user does something
  • The user is rewarded for his/her action
  • The user commits to the product

The end result is that the product plays a part in its own retention.

Personally, I feel the Hook model is just a re-hash of the classic Habit Loop from the field of psychology which essentially is:

  • Cue the subject to do something
  • Reward the subject for doing that thing
  • Create the routine to bridge the cue and the reward

Either way, whichever flavor you choose, the idea behind the movement is that your product needs to encourage the formation of a habit. While I’m not saying that this isn’t true — but there is an even bigger problem.

There is no such thing as a new idea

Regardless of what you may think, there are very few new ideas. Facebook, as awesome as it is today, wasn’t a new idea. Google wasn’t a new idea either. What they did, however, was execute ideas differently and arguably in better ways than their competition.

So if you are trying to grow a new product, chances are that a product already exists in some form or another that is already serving some of your target markets. So before you even think about forming new habits, you have to think about breaking some old ones — now that is hard.

Habits are even harder to break than to form

It’s a bit of a wives tale that habits are formed after 21 days. The truth is that habits take at least 21 days to form. Some habits can take months or years to form. (Just ask your gym membership.) But once they are formed, it does take some serious effort to break them. Even if they are disturbed once or even twice, it’s often not enough to break a habit permanently. (Just ask a smoker.)

But why is that?

In short, people don’t like to think (at least actively). Staying with what one has doesn’t take much of an effort. However, learning something new takes effort. Worse still, your brain plays games to avoid change.

What you can do to break existing habits

  1. Understand your audience. And I mean really understand them. Understand their likes, dislikes, why they like the other product and areas where the other product just isn’t cutting it.
  2. Position your product as one that addresses the gaps that are important to your audience.
  3. Make sure your product lives up to that brand promise. I.e., Don’t lie.
  4. Get the word out. Makes sure you get that message to where your audience likes to hang out, repeated across multiple channels and delivered by thought-leaders they listen to.
  5. Repeat.

If this sounds like classic integrated marketing communications — well it kind of is. Sorry.

If this sounds odd to you considering that this is a Growth blog— it shouldn’t.

Growth is about reducing marketing spend and making any marketing spend more impactful. And really, all the stuff I’ve listed above doesn’t necessarily have to cost you anything in dollars if you’re creative. And creativity is where Growth lives.



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