The day Amazon read my mind

This mind reading story started in a banal way. I forgot my Kindle in the airplane seat pocket. Banal because I’m sure that happens all the time (it just hides in that stupid pocket) and because it was my third time.

But this time I did not get it back. Air Canada never found it. Good news: no one else seemed to find it either. I waited a couple days to see if anyone would buy a cornucopia of trashy fiction with my Kindle. Nope.

Anyway, I unlinked it from my account and was now in the market for a new Kindle. The last Paperwhite model was 9 months old. And there’s one lesson Steve Jobs told me. Never buy any Apple products 9 months after the previous launch. You’ll hate yourself in 3 months.
Amazon’s previous releases had followed a similar pattern. And the latest rumors were hinting at a March release. So I decided to wait a bit.

6 months passed. March flew by. Nothing. (We’re still waiting by the way)

At this point, I started to question even buying a new Kindle anymore. Paper books were not that bad after all (well, except when you fall asleep reading. Not losing your page when falling asleep is the biggest unsung advantages of e-readers). Do I even needed a Kindle anyway? Wasn’t buying a new one a proof of my addiction to consumerism? Was my reckless purchasing habits funding the death of bookstores, newspapers and dolphins? I had a few books left on my account, but I could still read them somewhere else after all. So I postponed even more.

Then, one day, in an episode of distracted web browsing, I head to And there it is. Front page. In the million-dollar div container. The one reserved for bad tablets and Bezos-penned letters.

A Kindle Paperwhite.

Not a new version mind you. But one with a shocking sticker next to it.

$75 off.

I blink. I check my eyesight a couple time. Afraid it is going to go away, I add it to my cart the next second.
I’m not dreaming: $48 for a Paperwhite, tax included. I one-click order faster than it takes to say “states sales tax”.
The entire thing took less than two minutes. No one I’ve met ever saw that same offer (a few other people on the internet did)

Amazon has made advanced marketing tactiques quite mundane in the last decade but I found this one mind-blowing.
Consider the feat: I’m the opposite of an impulse buyer. I compare, I double-check, I double guess myself. All the time. And I’ve worked in predictive marketing and product recommendations for the last 4 years. I thought I had seen it all.

Of course, when you think about it, I left a few traces. Heavy user that stops purchasing, then inactivate a device. Search the site for Kindles several times. Look up on the web for the next release (not sure if they caught that one. That would be impressive). But even then, the pattern of who saw this ad doesn’t seem obvious.

Plus, it’s a risky move. Get a discount like this to the wrong user and you’re just cannibalizing your already razor-thin margin. (Given the number of Kindle books I’ve purchased since then, I’m sure my purchase has been a net positive for them.)

In any case, targeted discounting is about as advanced as it gets in predictive / lifecycle marketing. I’d like to know if it’s something they’re experimenting with on a large scale. Hit me up on twitter (@paulcothenet if you’ve received a similar offer or if you know more about it.


Now read this

Dear Journalism,

Here’s to 2013 # A Life-or-Death Situation, Robin Marantz Henig, New York Times How the beliefs and convictions of a proponent of the “right to die” collides with her husband debilitating bike accident. Indispensable. Bread and Women,... Continue →