Often people purchase a particular brand purely out of habit. Sometimes the function of a familiar brand is to reduce the time and effort associated with choosing a particular product. One can rest assured that his or her needs will be met with the familiar product or brand.
There are several steps to creating a habit-forming brand. Recent research indicates that it takes two to eight months to form a new habit, depending on the individual, frequency of use and type of habit to be formed.
The first step is to initiate product trial. The next step is to encourage repeat purchase. After that, frequency of use becomes important.
During wartime, tobacco companies distributed free packs of cigarettes to active duty soldiers. AOL became one of the earliest and best-known for-pay online services primarily because it gave away millions of floppy disks featuring 50 to 120 hours (and even up to three months) of free online services.
Many brands use frequency programs to encourage ongoing loyal behavior. I have frequency cards for several different coffee houses. And I am a member of several airline and hotel chain loyalty programs. Starbucks used to offer discounts on afternoon coffee drinks for the days on which you purchased your first coffee drink in the morning.
In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg indicates that key to forming a habit is identifying the cue that is associated with the habit and the reward that reinforces the habit. Any of these can be cues: time of day, a particular place, a certain emotion, the presence of particular other people or a kind of ritualized behavior.
Once the habit has been formed linking the habit to a frequently encountered cue the trick is to offer some basic reward to reinforce the behavior.
The following are some books that address this topic in greater detail:
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
- Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
- Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger