#3 The Hook Model

When people think about the future of pharmaceutical marketing, they should look to other, arguably faster-paced industries where assimilation of innovative ideas, technology and human psychology are essential. For examples, social media companies and firms developing apps have a lot to teach the pharmaceutical industry about how to obtain and retain customers.

One individual who has systematically evaluated the success of social media companies and app developers is Nir Eyal. His bestselling book, Hooked, describes a common set of principles used to create ‘habit forming products.’ In his view, companies are no longer developing products, they are striving to build habits on the part of their customers.

Eyal, who was trained at Stanford Business School, was a student of BJ Fogg, and who is now a professor at Stanford, has created a framework that he calls the ‘Hook.’ His idea is that any habit-forming product will reflect the principles of the Hook model in its development.

The first step in the Hook model is the Trigger: it is an activator of behavior, an alert that gets someone’s attention, and draws them in to consider using a product. For example, a Trigger can be a message of some sort, an email, or a link. Next is the Action that a customer takes, typically in anticipation of getting some sort of a reinforcement. In our world, we Trigger a health care provider through disease and product education, in the hopes that she or he will take the Action of prescribing the medication.

Next is the Reward. In Eyal’s model, the rewards should be variable in order to create a sense of interest and intrigue, like a slot machine or a lottery. In the world of medical marketing, the reward we hope the doctor gets is a symptom ameliorated, a problem solved, etc., and ideally a satisfied patient. In our world, the ‘reward’ should be more predictable. A doctor prescribes a medication, she wants a dependable effect.

The fourth step in the model is Investment. This is where the customer is asked to do something – to invest something of their own into a product. When a physician is asked to join a speaker’s bureau, for example, that is a type of investment on their part, of time and energy.

While the Hook model was developed with the idea of social media and apps in mind, there are important things it can teach us as pharmaceutical markets. Indeed, we would argue that the concepts of Reward and Investment are ‘white space’ in our thinking as pharmaceutical marketers.

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