Amazon’s Pay Phrase: Behavioral Targeting or Identity Aspiration?

by cv harquail on November 18, 2009

Has figured out something really personal about me?

I’m wondering, because Amazon’s new Pay Phrase feature has me a bit disconcerted puzzled.

Pay Phrase: Two words that mean….what, exactly? Claim your PayPhrase_1258567548675.jpeg

Amazon has this new feature, called “pay phrase”, where you pick out a unique phrase, attach it to a pin number, and then use the phrase to verify your account as you check out. In order to tempt you to use this feature, Amazon suggests a phrase just for you.

I was intrigued to see the phrase that Amazon recommended to me is “Scrupulous Integrity”. Sounds pretty good, no?

And, if I didn’t like this phrase, Amazon also recommended:

Conscientious Imagination        Diplomatic Ingenuity
Fastidious Performance             Conscientious Affection
Conscientious Caution               Sweet Ingenuity
Strict Determination                  Scrupulously Visible

Pay Phrase: A Style Statement?

These phrases are all so lovely, so positive, so aspirational, so style-y.

style statement.jpg Pay Phrases sound nothing like an e-commerce tool. Instead, they sound like “Style Statements“, those “two profoundly descriptive words that capture your essence“.

Clarifying your personal Style Statement is a process for “creating a compass for living an inspired life that’s true to you”. It is, in fact, it a really powerful authenticity ‘technology’ that I’d recommend to anyone.

These phrases above sound pretty good to me. Since I haven’t actually clarified my own Style Statement, maybe I should just be all about “Scrupulous Integrity”.

But I’m wondering, how did Amazon choose these phrases? Are they specifically for me?

Is Pay Phrase some kind of twist on behavioral targeting?

Did Amazon select these words based on some computerized review of my recent purchases (which include such titles as Activism, Inc.: How the Outsourcing of Grassroots Campaigns Is Strangling Progressive Politics in America, the exciting Spanish Verb Workbook, and Friday Night Lights: The Third Season)?

Is the Pay Phrase just a bunch of nice words (like the mission statement generator) that anyone would like?

Identity Aspiration?

Maybe Amazon somehow has some secret insight into attributes I’d love to have as part of my identity… maybe Amazon wants me to be more “me”?

Then again, the Pay Phrase could be something much more banal. The Pay Phrase could just be an added little trick that would make me feel better about shopping on Amazon, since every time every time I’d buy something, I’d be reminded that I’m “scrupulously integrigated”?

Worst case, it would be some interesting ‘auto-communication’.

Just wondering about the identity implications of this tool. What do you think?


Donna Steinhorn November 18, 2009 at 5:58 pm

I was puzzled by this as well. Especially since my recommended phrase was “Donna’s Innocent Openness” and the alternative suggestions included :
Broad Receptivity
Donna’s Sweet Reason
Profound Receptivity
Behavioral Receptivity
Lively Openness
What does that say about me?
.-= Donna Steinhorn´s last blog ..SOME KEYS TO A STRESS-FREE HOLIDAY =-.

cv November 18, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Donna, that’s hysterical, b/c I *really would* use some of those words to describe you!! So, that’s one vote for “Amazon’s got me pegged”. 🙂

Lucy November 19, 2009 at 4:33 am

Interesting! Is this just a .com feature? I can’t see it on the site, and I know I’ve bought things from them recently.

The captcha phrases can be entertaining too: I had ‘decadent brother-in-law’ recently…
.-= Lucy´s last blog ..Obama and the Revitalization of Brand USA =-.

cv November 19, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Hi Lucy- It’s still ‘new’ here, so maybe it’s only just being rolled out. Or, maybe Brits don’t need that kind of identity stroking to motivate purchase?
But seriously, someone is having fun writing the algorithms to generate these phrases…they should create something like a ‘style statement magic 8 ball’, of which we could ask “Which part of my personal brand shall I tweet today?” < grin >

Jon November 20, 2009 at 10:42 am

Did you notice that you appear to have mis-read it? It looks like scrupulous ingenuity to me…still not a bad thing to identify with!

cv November 20, 2009 at 11:15 am

Jon, great catch!

Now I’m wondering, did I project even more than I thought I had into that phrase, making myself more (or less) interesting by reading integrity vs. ingenuity? Or did the phases change between the first time I saw it and when I went back for a screengrab? (I’ll have to go see.) Or, do I just need more coffee?

Have you gone to see what your phrase might be? cv

Tidbit December 1, 2009 at 6:47 pm

The one Amazon gave me was, “gorgeous sexy man-machine”. Wow, it totally nailed me.

cv December 4, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Tidbit, funny you should say that. My DH claims that that is “his” pay phrase. Hmmm.

Wayne December 30, 2009 at 10:03 pm

My suggested phrase was “Last Benediction” This is not looking good

cv December 31, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Wayne, that’s especially a concern on New Year’s Eve…. please keep us posted on what comes next 🙂 cv

Patrick February 28, 2010 at 9:38 am

The words are chosen randomly. Nothing personal.

cv harquail March 1, 2010 at 9:35 am

Patrick, that’s actually part of the fun of this kind of tool. The words serve as a ‘projective test’ for the customer– triggering them to ‘make sense’ of the words, despite knowing that the words are random.

Communications Forum February 6, 2011 at 6:57 pm

That’s really interesting. I never noticed Amazon doing this before.

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