Being in consumer for almost 10 years now, I’ve seen and built many products based on users core motivations.

Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette by Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890)

Last weekend, I discussed with entrepreneurs from The Family about behavior design and frameworks to build addictive products.

I shared a secret. I believe that “addiction is the new growth” and that almost every company, either B2C or B2B, will soon look for ways to add some form of addiction to their products to unlock a new powerful growth engine.

The editor of Fortnite, Epic Games (B2C) and Slack (B2B) are both precursor companies who successfully worked on addictive design.

Here are some of the main insights. You can find the slides below.

Andrew Chen, Uber’s and Dropbox’s ex head of growth and now partner at a16z, recently shared his investing thesis for consumer products.

Chen is looking for new platforms/technologies hitting scale, product tapping into existing consumer behavior and a growth insight.

What’s interesting here is the belief that users motivations are already well known and that they just need to be adapted to nascent technologies to form new habits that can open massive untapped markets.

Jean de la Rochebrochard, partner at Kima Ventures, likes to look at end-user facing products through the prisme of the NPE canvas.

Like for Andrew Chen, the Narrative is that existing behavior or motivation that people have: well-being, beauty, stalking, ego boost, privacy…

The Primitive is the core feature of your product that sustains itself like the feed, chat, swipe, camera, map… The role of the Primitive is to let the user express and fulfill his authentic motivation in the most immediate way.

Finally, Enablers help strengthen and amplify that core feature of the product like filters for photos or emojis in messaging applications.

BJ Fogg is probably the most prominent behavior searcher in Silicon Valley. Fogg developed a magic formula to understand if and why a certain behavior will occur or not. We’re really leveraging the dark matter here.

His framework is based on 3 key components:

  • Motivation: user’s energy to do a certain thing depending on its human instincts like Pleasure/Pain, Hope/Fear or Social Acceptance/Rejection
  • Ability: easiness to do the required action depending on time, money, physical effort, brain cycles, social deviance and non-routine
  • Trigger: the call to action

Behavior = Motivation + Ability + Trigger

For a behavior to occur, motivation (M), ability (A) and a trigger (T) must converge at the same moment.

If you’re looking to add some form of addiction to your product, Nir Eyal’s framework is probably one of the most actionnable out there.

To build an habit-forming product or feature, you need to drive your user through 4 steps forming a hook:

  • The Triggers: what are the internal (emotions, situations, places…) and external triggers (CTA, notifications, billboards…) linked to your product?
  • The Action: what is the simplest behavior or use of a product feature in anticipation of a reward?
  • The Reward: is the reward fulfilling enough, yet leaves the user wanting more? Rewards can be social, resources or self-achievements. Counterintuitively, reward randomness increases engagement.
  • The Investment: what bit of work is done to increase the likelihood of returning? Users invest for things like money, time, data, social capital…

Eugene Wei, ex-product owner at Amazon explained that most of us are looking for social capital and that any social app that wants to be successful has to let its users earn this capital the same way you would earn a currency.

Instagram is the perfect example with likes and followers.

And if you want any status game to keep running on the long term, your proof of work (what you have to do to earn social capital, like share great pictures for Instagram) has to be hard enough to create a meritocratic ranking of users otherwise best ‘players’ will feel their social reward is not worth their sweat.

Pandora by Chauncey Bradley Ives (1810–1894)

I couldn’t write a blog post about product addiction without mentioning the word “ethic”. By understanding better and better how the human brain is working, we could be on the verge to open a pandora box. Recently, many entrepreneurs, designers and philosophers talked about the risks of user manipulations, either through design or algorithms.

But I also believe that addiction, if done properly and ethically, can truly enrich your product experience and enhance your users feelings of fulfillment.

If you’re building an end-user facing product, there are good chances that you can add some form of addiction that will help you drive more growth through users retention. Always feel free to ping me if I can help.

Side note: the word ‘narrative’ is sometime also used as a synonym of ‘pitch’.
c.f. Justin Kan ‘Creating Your Startup’s Narrative and Pitch’ blog post.
To avoid confusion, may be it would be easier to call the NPE model the BPE (Behavior-Primitive-Enablers) framework?

Co-Founder at Aria.fm — Part-Time Director at The Family — jswallez.com