Category: brand positioning

24
Oct

Making Your Brand Irreplaceable

Finding that special ingredient that makes your brand irreplaceable is tough work. If you don’t put yourself in the shoes of your customer, that job turns from tough to impossible.

Job #1 is to turn your brand inside out, understanding that one simple answer that every customer seeks:

What’s in it for me?

Think of your own life. Which brands are such an important part of who you are that there are no brand substitutes?

As I went through this exercise myself, I immediately thought of the 2012 Excedrin recall. That devastating recall in which every single bottle was removed from every single shelf in every single state. Excedrin is my standby. It is the medication I turn to when migraines put my head in a vise and won’t let go. For me, there is just no substitute. I frantically searched through purses, suitcases and drawers stockpiling Excedrin so I could manage to cobble together a cure until that jubilant day when the brand magically reappeared on shelves.

I thought about the other brands in my life that are irreplaceable.
screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-5-59-04-pm

So, here is the $6 million question:

What emotional benefit does your brand promise its customers?

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19
Sep

Are You Using an A.C.E. Moderator?

Over the course of my 20+ year marketing career, first as a client, then as an agency planner, I have participated in hundreds of focus groups, brainstorms and interviews from both sides of the glass. Throughout these years, I have learned that you can train someone to be a good moderator, but that the skills required to become an A.C.E. moderator are innate … they are hard-wired into who the person is at their very core.

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Selecting the right moderator is the first, and most important, step in truly understanding what customers think and feel. A great moderator is the foundation of a great strategy.

—————————————————————————————–

Authentic. Curious. Empathetic.
Three words used to describe Sue Northey’s moderating style.

sue_northey-sepia

Sue has spent over 20 years uncovering unexpected insights which inspire communications and build brand affinity. She is a skilled communicator, having moderated over 750 interviews, focus groups and workshops in order to brainstorm new ideas, understand consumer motivations, evaluate new products, assess brand equity and evaluate communications. One of Sue’s specialties is leading branding workshops with multidisciplinary teams, working collaboratively to understand and reposition brands.

Sue has spearheaded efforts for well over 100 consumer, business-to-business and nonprofit brands. Her work experience encompasses the client, agency, academic and entrepreneurial sides of business. Her previous leadership roles at a major CPG company, a notable advertising agency and a D1 university all prepared her to launch her own consulting firm, Branding Breakthroughs, in 2015.

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10
Jul

Is Brand Strategy Just BS?

In my work at Branding Breakthroughs, one thing has become abundantly clear … people think they understand Brand Strategy, but they really don’t.

So, just what is Brand Strategy and why does it matter?

What Brand Strategy Is Not

Perhaps it is best to begin by explaining what Brand Strategy is not.

  • It is not your logo.
  • It is not your website.
  • It is not your product.
  • It is not your brand name.
  • It is not that fancy newsletter you publish.

What Is Brand Strategy?

Think of it as the frame of your house. The 2x4s that make up the walls, the roof, the ceilings, the floors. These important pieces form the foundation of your house. If you use inferior materials or hastily construct it, your house may not withstand normal wear-and-tear; worse yet, it definitely will not hold strong when the high winds of that unexpected storm hit.

Which Questions Do I Need Answer?

Here are some of the questions you should answer in order to create a compelling Brand Strategy.

Brand Strategy Questions

So, now perhaps you understand that BS stands for Brand Strategy and that it is a really important building block for your brand.

 

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24
Jun

How To Use Brand Magic To Increase Sales

When I set out to create Branding Breakthroughs™, I decided to scope out my competition. After all, they are branding and marketing gurus, so they must have incredible websites, right?

Marketers Don’t Necessarily Brand Themselves Well

But, my research left me a bit stymied.

While I certainly found some great marketers out there, I was shocked at the number of websites that entirely missed the whole point of brand strategy.

Tons of copy. No differentiation. Lack of focus. Marketing-speak. Inconsistency. Old-fashioned imagery.

In a word:

a

Turned To Social Media For Answers

So, I put the question out into the social sphere.

“Did you do for your own brand what you do for your clients?”

While some readily acknowledged a hearty YES!, others openly admitted they wanted to focus on their clients rather than themselves.

Wait … what?

How can you possibly hope to engage prospective clients if you don’t practice what you preach?

First and foremost, you have to get your own brand right. Even Psychology Today offers the advice,

“Love yourself before you love others.”

The Secret Sauce Behind Branding

So ask yourself.

  1. What keeps my customers up at night?
  2. What makes our brand different?
  3. Where is the white space in our category?
  4. What kind of personality do we have?

Brand Ecosystem 6.24.15

It’s Hard Work, Not Magic

Clients often look at me and think I have some magic up my sleeve. I throw a little of this and a little of that into a magic black box and *PRESTO* out comes the perfect brand ecosystem. But you and I both know, there isn’t a whole lot of magic that goes on. It’s just good old-fashioned, roll-up-your-sleeves, noodle-it kind of hard work.

Phase 1 Discovery Process

My Advice To You

  • Take the time to talk to your employees about what they see as your brand strengths and weaknesses. What do they wish you did differently?
  • Look at everything you share with your customers. Is it focused or all over the map? Can your competitors say the same things?
  • Speaking of competitors, analyze their digital presence. What are they saying to differentiate themselves from you? Hint: Don’t play in their sandbox if you don’t have to.
  • Look at the media attention you’re receiving. Is it consistent with what you say about yourself? Does it play out your point of differentiation?
  • Convene a multidisciplinary team for an afternoon. Talk about your brand. I mean, really talk about your brand. Ask the tough questions and hang around until you’ve figured out the answers.
  • Now lock yourself and a few trusted allies in a room. Use everything you’ve learned to carefully craft your brand ecosystem.

It’s Hard Work, But It’s Worth It

If you want to create a meaningful, differentiated brand, do the work. You won’t regret it.  (Tweet this.)

It will be worth every single minute and every drop of sweat.

Don’t Want To Go Solo?

Feel free to drop me a line at Sue@BrandingBreakthroughs.com. I’d love to help you find the magic behind your brand.

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22
May

Is The ‘Tupperware’ Home Party Business Model Dead?

Lia Sophia Announces Plans To Close

On Thursday, I received a letter from Lia Sophia (direct sellers of women’s quality costume jewelry), informing me that:

“Due to the challenges of our business model, we sadly and reluctantly decided to cease operations…”

At first, their declaration to close shop gave me pause; after all, they have been in business for over 40 years and thousands of women across the country proudly wear Lia Sophia necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings.

But, after thinking about it for a few minutes, I realized their decision really didn’t surprise me at all.

Tupperware Pioneers Direct Selling

Back in 1946, when Tupperware first pioneered direct selling, it was heralded as a novel way to reach women with a personalized brand message. An independent sales rep asked interested women to invite family, friends and neighbors to their homes. Amidst a backdrop of food, wine and conversation, the rep passionately connected with the women, telling them stories about her products, sharing tips among friends and answering their questions one-on-one. The women loved hearing the stories behind the products and enjoyed seeing which products their friends chose to buy.

It was a three-way deal that benefited all.

  1. The sales rep earned commission on the products sold.
  2. The hostess earned free products based on the total dollar sales of her party and the number of parties her friends booked.
  3. Her friends had a valid excuse to get together for an evening of fun, food and wine, plus they could buy new products, play games, win prices and take advantage of special deals.

This was word-of-mouth marketing at its best.

Direct Selling Explodes

As women warmed to the idea of buying products in the comfort of a home setting, the business model exploded. Joining Tupperware were a multitude of new products, ranging from makeup (Avon and Mary Kay) to food (Herbalife) to cookware (The Pampered Chef) to fragrances (Scentsy) to baskets (Longaberger) and everything in between. Invites to home parties doubled, tripled, quadrupled … especially if you were popular in your social circles.

Women Look For A Plausible Out

With the rapid influx of party invites showing up in their mailboxes, women increasingly began to think of home parties as annoying. Websites and blog posts exploded with advice on how to sidestep these parties, with titles like, How to say no to a home party held by friends selling stuff and Best way to decline ANOTHER party???? Women started inventing really creative excuses for why they were unavailable the night of the party, just so she wouldn’t hurt her friend’s feelings.

The tide had turned.

Life Is Just Too Busy

Added to the increased home party competition, life had just become exceedingly busier.

  • There were kids to taxi from basketball to school plays to Boy Scouts.
  • There was dinner to quickly put together between activities.
  • There was homework to help with, sometimes late in the evening.
  • There was the stress associated with balancing a family and a job.

Net net, there weren’t many minutes left to get together with the girls … and when those precious times did come around, the last thing anyone wanted to do was look at plastic bowls or yet another scented candle.

Amidst all this chaos, women found the best way to avoid buying products she didn’t need or want was to stay home.

Smartphones Grab Our Attention

Then, technology came knocking.

Women became obsessed with connecting with their friends through electronic means, rather than in person. When they did connect face-to-face, they were so busy snapping selfies and answering messages that their time together just wasn’t the same.

Multitasking had become the new reality.

The Wall Street Journal wrote an article a few years back titled, Just look me in the eye, already, in which the writer laments the loss of eye contact within our society. Today, everyone has their faces buried in their smartphones. Many have lost the fine art of actually connecting with each other.

Just imagine a 1980’s Lia Sophia or Tupperware party in today’s world. Do you think it’s possible that a roomful of women would actually talk to and engage with each other for the duration of a two-hour party rather than <GASP!> reading their Facebook messages and texting their friends?

Not likely.

The Face of Retail Changes

But, people are still buying products and services. So, how are they buying and what do they view as engaging?

Today’s shopping is different in so many ways.

  • Items can be easily purchased through one click on Amazon.
  • Etsy customizes products to match a person’s home or personality.
  • Brands are inviting consumer participation.
  • Consumers are using social media to compliment and criticize.

Today’s Millennials – those born between 1980 and 1999 – are seeking a totally different shopping experience, largely driven by technology and their ability to get anything they want without stepping foot outside their homes. They embrace novelty, self-expression and personalized experiences that invite them to participate in the brand and then provide the means to share their experiences with their friends via Instagram or Snapchat.

Here are a few examples of how shopping has evolved.

Adore Me takes lingerie shopping to a new level. By joining their monthly club, women of all shapes and sizes have access to over 500 styles of lingerie and swimwear delivered right to their doors. A quiz at the beginning of the relationship helps the company determine the types of lingerie a buyer will feel most comfortable in. Members are rewarded with free lingerie after their sixth purchase and never pay shipping fees.

Monthly subscriptions can also be secured with sampling companies like Ipsy who arrange partnerships with beauty companies like Smashbox, Urban Decay and Nicole by OPI. Stylists at Ipsy hand select exciting new products for its members to try each month. The products are sent to members in a collectible bag, at savings up to 70% off retail. Members can also watch tutorials on new products and win free items.

Pushing the experiential limits of body care products is Frank,  a coffee-based body scrub that targets skin conditions. Language used throughout the website is deliberately edgy – “get naked. get dirty. get rough. get clean.” Their blog shares ‘dirty talk’ with its readers, offering suggestions on how to use their products.

Capitalizing on the fresh and local trend are companies like Door To Door Organics which deliver seasonal food from local farmers right to your doorstep. Not going to be at home? No problem. Just leave a cooler. Fresh. Healthy. Local.

The Growler Station takes the authenticity of the beer you drink to a whole new level. Back in the late 1800s, men carried fresh beer from the local pub back to their homes in a small, galvanized pail. Today, patrons fill half-gallon glass bottles with freshly brewed craft beer themselves and take it home, effectively extending the pub experience to the sanctity of their own homes.

Are Any Home Parties Doing Well?

When it comes to home parties, one direct seller seems to be riding out the storm – sex toy parties. Although the concept has been around since the 1970s, its popularity didn’t really take off until a few decades later.

Direct sellers, like Pure Romance, take a previously frowned upon topic and encourage women to get comfortable with their sexuality.  Purely based on having fun, over the top and just a little bit naughty, these parties take talk of sex to an experiential level. It’s a modern day slumber party where girls can uninhibitedly talk about their needs in the bedroom without blushing or feeling shy.

These slumber parties may not be anything like those we saw back in 1978 on the movie, Grease, but perhaps that’s what makes them so special.

The Death of Direct Selling

Lia Sophia’s decision to close up shop may be a sign of things to come.

Or perhaps the in-home party just needs to be livened up a bit, similar to what companies like Pure Romance, Passion Parties and Intimate Expressions have created … an experiential event that invites social media chatter.

Only time will tell.

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20
Apr

How To Tap Into Consumer Emotions In Qualitative

“The buyer journey is nothing more than a series of questions that must be answered.”  Dr. Michael Bernstein, Stanford University

Dr. Bernstein could not be more accurate – the quality of information obtained in qualitative research is only as good as the dialogue that occurs between the moderator and the people in the room.

So what questions should be asked to truly understand a consumer and the journey they take when making a purchase decision?

We all know that if you ask a consumer a direct question, you typically get the first answer that pops into their mind … and often that answer is very rational.

Moderator: What’s most important to you when buying a new car?
Consumer:  Price is always #1.

If we believed that price was the single most important criterion when purchasing a car, we might surmise that this consumer would buy a nissan versa or a Chevy Spark because they are two of the cheapest new cars on the market today. But, of course, we know there are many other factors that weigh into their buying decision. We also know that most people will not buy a car they happen to think is ugly.

When faced with a direct question, consumers often respond quickly and habitually. Quite often, they are not even aware they are providing a faulty answer.

So, how do we tap into the deeply held emotional triggers that consumers often do not even realize have a profound effect on their buying decisions?

The answer is to ask for their opinion over and over and over again, but instead of asking direct questions, to use associative and projective techniques to evoke visceral and emotional reactions. These types of responses occur so spontaneously that consumers do not have time to filter them through the logical side of their brain.

Let me share a few favorite techniques with you.

Associative Techniques

Unaided Association

Why? This is a wonderful place to start because it allows consumers to clear their mind of everything they immediately associate with the brand.

How? Ask the question: What are all the thoughts and images that immediately come to mind when I say X? Anything else?

Picture Sort

Why? Many assume that people prefer to communicate through language, but in fact 65% are visual thinkers. (Prime/Neil Fleming)

How? Create a library of royalty-free images that reflect different people, emotions, situations, objects, etc. Print these images on card stock or photo paper. For each project, pick a sample of 20-30 images to show to consumers, asking them to spontaneously select those that most fit the brand being discussed.

Pictures - Web_Small

Word Sort

Why? While most individuals are visual learners, a number still process best by reading. This is where words come into play.

How? Create a comprehensive list of words that describe people and their emotions. Print each word on card stock. Select 20-30 words for each project and follow the same guidelines described in the Picture Sort.

Adjectives - Cropped

Color Sort

What? Each color has a unique meaning and each evokes different emotional responses.

How? Create color cards in a similar format to the images created for the Picture Sort. The colors of the rainbow are a great starting point. Additional colors to consider are white, black, grey and brown. This can either be done as a group exercise or a stack of color cards can be given to each individual. This YouTube video illustrates how colors were used in research to explore emotional reactions to the Apple watch.

Colors - Web_Small

Projective Techniques

Brand Personification

Why? This is an excellent technique to humanize your brand and to better understand its personality and voice.

How? Challenge consumers to think of your brand as a person and ask them a number of questions about that person. Is it a man or woman? What kind of car do they drive? Do they live in the city, suburb or country? What kind of music do they listen to? If you met them at a party, what would they be like?

A Trip to Corporate Headquarters

Why? This is a very simple way to understand how consumers perceive the company behind the brand.

How? Ask consumers to take a virtual trip with you in their mind to the corporate headquarters of Brand X. As you are going on this journey, ask them questions. What kind of cars are in the parking lot? What does the building look like? Can they walk right in the door or is there a security guard? Once inside, how are people dressed? Do they welcome you as you enter, ignore you or ask you what you are doing there? Can you get in to see the president unannounced?

Obituary Exercise

Why? This exercise can often provide the Achilles Heal for your brand or a competitor’s brand. It is also a great way to hear from some of your quieter group members.

How? Each individual is asked to write an obituary for your brand or a competitive brand. In this obituary, they are asked to include the following: cause of death, who came to the funeral, what was said in the eulogy and who will most miss the brand. Obituaries can be read out loud or read privately after the groups.

About the Author

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Sue Northey offers a wealth of strategic brand and communications moderating experience acquired through a robust career spanning a multi-billion dollar packaged goods company, national advertising agency and public relations & social media firm. Her expertise centers on creating intuitive target profiles, compelling brand positionings, single-minded messages and meaningful communications strategies that connect with customers and drive business revenues. Her career has spanned the client, agency and academic sides of branding and communications and she has had the pleasure of working on an extensive portfolio of consumer, business-to-business and nonprofit brands.

If you are interested in obtaining a moderator bid, please initiate a Request for Proposal on the Quirks website or email Sue directly at Sue@BrandingBreakthroughs.com.

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07
Apr

The Passion Play: What Is Your Brand’s Kryptonite?

Do you have any passion brands in your life?

By passion brands, I mean those brands you cannot imagine living without. Brands that would leave you brokenhearted if they were to disappear tomorrow.

As I think of this question in my own life, I can only think of three: 1) Excedrin Migraine (absolutely nothing works as well on a killer headache); 2) iPhone (my life is tethered to so many apps that I would have a hard time functioning without it); 3) Long Tall Sally (they offer fashionable clothing that actually fits my long limbs). When you think of the hundreds of brands I interface with every week, it’s hard to believe that only three have achieved this status in my life. But, I bet you don’t have a whole lot more in your quiver either.

Why is that?

As a marketer, your driving goal should be to catapult your brand to passion status for as many of the individuals in your target market as humanly possible. An irreplaceable brand creates a shortcut to consumer decision-making. This is a real advantage to time-starved consumers. It also means there is no wiggle room for another brand to sneak into your target’s hearts and minds. That’s an advantage to your bottom line.

But, while becoming a passion brand is an aspirational goal for all marketers, it is far easier to wax poetic about its benefits than it is to accomplish. So, just how do you go about making your brand a passion brand?

I am sorry to burst your bubble. There is no secret black box or magical crystal ball that can circumvent knowledge, investment and hard work. Your brand must intercept the target at numerous points along the decision process, earning their attention, teaching them what makes you special, encouraging them to consider you and ultimately buy you and then creating such an incredible brand experience that they must tell others about you. That is the magic behind The Passion Play.

The_Passion_Play

First, of course, is to get people to notice you … to become aware you even exist. As you well know, the old adage of “if you build it, they will come” never really works nor does tweeting a few posts or announcing a new product on your website. The most important way to get noticed is to figure out who your bull’s eye target is, where they live, work and play, what matters to them most and what emotional benefits they are seeking from your brand. Only then, can you connect with them in a meaningful way.

Once you are noticed, you have to help your target grasp who you are at your very core. They need to develop a crystal clear appreciation for your point of differentiation versus your competitors. This phase answers the question: What is my kryptonite … my secret substance that no one else has? Despite some not-so-complimentary opinion pieces on how flawed qualitative and quantitative research is, designed properly there is no substitute for getting close to your target and understanding what makes them tick.

Once you have earned your target’s attention and demonstrated your value as a brand, the end-game is to entice them to consider purchasing you. Consideration is a precursor to trial. Now, you may think coupons are the answer because you consistently hear women in focus groups say, “If you give me a coupon, I’ll try it.” But recent research shows that coupons generally reward current users of your brand. According to Hub Magazine, “Traditional promotions work well to reward current users for their loyalty, rather than to drive consideration or trial.” So, what about sampling? Well, sampling is great if you have a demonstrably superior product and a fat marketing budget, but for many brands, sampling is just not feasible. Viral marketing? Despite what many marketing companies may promise, there are no guarantees that a cool new product or a catchy little video will go viral or that Public Relations will place that awesome story on the cover of Fortune magazine. So, here is the cold, hard truth:

“You must know who you are,

what differentiates you from competitors

and who you are targeting

in order to develop a simple, powerful message

that inspires your target to take action.”

If you are available where your target usually shops and you are offered at a price they consider a good value, they will finally commit to trying you. Here’s where the rubber meets the road. This is where the value proposition needs to deliver against customer expectations. If the product underdelivers, you will not earn the privilege of repeat purchases. If the product overdelivers, it is not achieving its full market potential. The optimal scenario is to perfectly match the performance of the product with your target’s expectations. Only then, will you achieve maximum trial and repeat.

In decades gone by, a marketer’s panacea was to achieve brand loyalty, but today the goal is to inspire your target to become a champion for your brand. To create a customer that is so passionate about your brand they must share their brand experience with others. They may do this more publicly, through Twitter, Facebook or their blog, or in the shadows where interactions are not as easily tracked, in face-to-face conversations, texts or emails. These are the most passionate of the passionate, the individuals you can invite to participate in your brand.

Making the progression from awareness to brand champion can be a lengthy and expensive process, made only more arduous if you do not have a sense of the essence of your brand and a clearly defined profile of your bull’s eye target. So, start this journey by doing your homework. Just like in the classroom, if you don’t do the work, your chances of making the grade are slim.

 

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23
Mar

Why Spray-and-Pray Isn’t The Best Messaging Approach

We have all seen it … the brand that is all over the map when it comes to their communications messaging. They rationalize that everything they are saying is true, so why not say it? Aren’t they selling their product short if they don’t communicate all the reasons why their product is the best?

At first blush, it makes sense. Why dilute your message and run the risk of losing prospective clients that might buy because of one of the many things you tell them?

In truth, reality suggests the exact opposite.

Too many messages can and will dilute the equity of your brand. It leaves consumers adrift, wondering who you really are and what you have to offer. In a simple word, it confuses them. When a consumer understands who you are, they understand what they can expect from you … every single time they interact with your brand. In the absence of consistent brand messaging, they don’t know what to expect and, thus, are often disappointed with the brand experience. With no brand consistency, it is far too easy to turn to a brand that offers a clear brand promise.

Let’s look at Jimmy John’s to understand this concept a bit better. I am sure that most of you will agree that one thing the U.S. didn’t need was another sandwich shop back in 1983 when they opened their first restaurant. After all, the local Subway, Cousins or Suburpia was satisfying the hunger pains of residents just fine. So, just how did Jimmy John’s progress from a seemingly unknown to one of the biggest providers of sandwiches in the country?

Let’s think about the Jimmy John’s tagline for a moment.

Freaky fast.

This tagline is brilliant in its simplicity. It clearly and succinctly describes Jimmy John’s point-of-differentiation relative to every other sub shop in town. The word freaky exemplifies its brand personality, while simultaneously describing just how fast they are. Anyone that has listened to a Jimmy John’s commercial, walked into a store or ordered a sub on the phone can tell you there is something about them that is just a bit off center. Rapid-fire speech. Offbeat personalities. Comedic exaggerations. Couple this with their willingness to deliver one lonely sub to your home or office in record-breaking time and the simplistic beauty of the Freaky Fast tagline and positioning takes on a whole new meaning. As a consumer, it’s an understandable and memorable brand promise. Every time you order a Jimmy John’s sub, it will be delivered in record-breaking time, with a healthy dose of brand spunkiness along the way.

Another terrific example is General Electric, who is arguably one of the world’s largest and most diverse conglomerates. The task of creating a single-minded brand positioning for a behemoth company that offers a dizzying array of products and services appears to be an insurmountable task; yet, create a single-minded message they did.

Imagination at work.

Whether selling multimillion dollar MRI machines to hospital administrators, slick stainless steel refrigerators to consumers or energy consulting services to businesses, GE issues a rally cry to its employees the globe over – we will only market those solutions that push the edge of convention. Does this mean they will never sell me-too products? Of course not. However, it does imply they will not spend money promoting products and services that don’t respond to their corporate challenge.

Both of these companies, among countless others, demonstrate that single-minded messages that get all of us nodding our heads in agreement are the ones that viscerally connect with us. They leave us with a clear impression of who the brand is and what they promise to deliver on every single occasion we interact with their brand.

That kind of clarity usually earns our vote in the best possible way … through the dollars we spend.

Brand_Promise_Schematic

 

 

 

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