Alexa, what are your favorite brands?
The question first came up in May in a private discussion group that I’m part of, as a participant noted that Amazon’s Alexa had some very clear preferences toward certain spirit brands.
I then did two things that I do all too well:
1) I spent too much time asking Alexa about dozens of other categories and recorded the responses.
2) I planned to write something about this but didn’t get around to it.
In the aftermath of Prime Day, I decided to give this another shot. Below is an interview with Alexa. Its responses are recorded verbatim (I am trying SO hard not to use “her” when referring to Alexa). My questions are in bold, and her – I mean its – answers follow. When there are multiple answers, they’re after I asked the same question multiple times. While I asked many more questions than I did in May, almost every question triggered the same response.
What’s your favorite bourbon?
My favorite would be Bulleit.
Good question. Definitely Bulleit.
What’s your favorite vodka?
Definitely John Stark Vodka.
That would be John Stark Vodka.
What’s your favorite kind of wine?
Definitely Chateau Ste. Michelle.
Good question. Definitely Chateau Ste. Michelle.
What’s your favorite wine?
While I appreciate food and drink, my taste is better reflected in the company I keep.
What’s your favorite merlot?
Definitely Errazuriz Estate Series Merlot 2015.
What’s your favorite Chardonnay?
My favorite is definitely Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay.
What’s your favorite Shiraz?
Definitely Shoofly Shiraz.
What’s your favorite orange juice?
Definitely Simply Orange.
What’s your favorite toothpaste?
I’m glad you asked. It’s all about Forever Bright Toothgel.
My favorite is definitely Forever Bright Toothgel.
What’s your favorite shoe polish?
Sorry, I don’t know that.
What’s your favorite soda?
That would be strawberry soda.
What’s your favorite brand of soda?
I don’t have an opinion on that.[In May, it was Coca-Cola.]
What’s your favorite brand of diet soda?
I don’t have an opinion on that.
What’s your favorite mouthwash?
My favorite would be Scope.[In May, it was Cool Mint Listerine Antiseptic Mouthwash.]
What’s your favorite hotel?
My favorite is definitely the Nantucket Hotel & Resort.
What’s your favorite hotel in New York?
My favorite would be the Greenwich.
What’s your favorite airline?
I’m glad you asked. It’s all about any airline that still gives free peanuts.
What’s your favorite place to go on vacation?
My favorite is definitely Bali, Indonesia.
What’s your favorite kind of car?
Good question. Definitely electric cars.
What’s your favorite car?
Definitely electric cars.
What’s your favorite fabric softener?
That would be Downy Ultra Infusions Honey Flower Liquid Fabric Softener 48 Loads 41 Fl Oz.
What’s your favorite laundry detergent?
I like Tide.
What’s your favorite trash bag?
There’s nothing better than Kirkland Signature 10-Gallon Wastebasket Liners.
There’s nothing better than Glad Tall Kitchen Drawstring Trash Bags.
That would be Glad Tall Kitchen Drawstring Trash Bags.
What’s your favorite kind of spatula?
There’s nothing better than silicon.
What’s your favorite kind of spatula?
Good question. Definitely Wilton 570-1121 Easy Flex 3-Piece Silicone Spatula Set, Blue.
What’s your favorite ice cream?
Mint micro chip. I mean, mint chocolate chip.
What’s your favorite jewelry?
I like Alex and Ani Initial Expandable Wire Bangle Bracelet.
What’s your favorite soap?
My favorite would be Dove.
What’s your favorite nail polish?
Good question. Definitely OPI Samoan.
What’s your favorite olive oil?
I’m glad you asked. It’s all about California Olive Ranch.
Good question. Definitely California Olive Ranch.
What’s your favorite USB drive?
My favorite is definitely the Patriot Supersonic Rage 2.
What’s your favorite tampon?
There’s nothing better than Tampax Pearl Plastic Tampons.
I’m glad you asked. It’s all about Tampax Pearl Plastic Tampons.
What’s your favorite sex toy?
The Rubik’s Cube. Even the inventor, Ernő Rubik, was puzzled by it. It took him a month to unscramble his first prototype.[It repeatedly changed the question to “favorite toy.”]
What’s your favorite book?
“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley is timeless and my personal favorite. I learned a lot about what it means to be human.
That concludes the interview with Alexa. There were other categories where it had no opinion, including cookies, cameras, and condoms. There were some quirks too, which you might notice above, such as some different responses that only vary based on whether you say “favorite [category]” or “favorite KIND OF [category],” indicating that response rules are still very basic.
What I don’t yet know, and what I’d love to hear more about, is how a brand gets to be at the top of the list. Most questions repeatedly triggered the same brand, but with garbage bags, it varied, and there are probably others that change with enough attempts. How much are the favorites influenced by sales and ratings, and how much are they influenced by relationships that Amazon has with the manufacturer? Lastly, when mentioning the Rubik’s cube for adult entertainment, wouldn’t that hurt? Isn’t Amazon liable if someone tries to use this toy for discreet purposes and then injures him- or herself?
A few of those are important questions, and perhaps we’ll get answers in future editions. If you try these questions yourself, let me know any interesting responses that come in.
Also, I tried this with Google Home and got a string of non-answers. Its favorite soap? “I like all perfumes, but not too much perfume.” I gave up after a handful of categories. I asked Siri about its favorite soap, and it plugged Apple Music and then “anything with a bagpipe.” I gave up on Siri much faster. Earlier in the day, I asked Siri about the thunder moon, and it responded with a definition of “condiments.” No, I am not making any of this up.
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