Branding: October 2011 Archives

Is Bad Brand Naming Folly?

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Nikon Coolpix.pngI had to chuckle yesterday while reading a piece written by Alice Rawsthorn in the New York Times entitled The Power, or Folly, of a Product's Name.

She makes a few good points about some of the infuriatingly bad brand names, many of which I have commented on previously.

Rawsthron goes after techie products, laying waste to the Nikon Coolpix and the Sony Cyber-shot. She adds that she did not buy the Nikon Coolpix stating, "I had no intention of buying anything permanently emblazoned with 'Coolpix,' I passed."

This made me pause. She actually turned down the product because the product name was offensive? Really? "Coolpix" was just not cool?

This is certainly one of Nikon's most successful brand names and I have to wonder why, exactly, it is so awful. Puerile, maybe, but certainly no worse than "Instamatic", a real camera classic.

Toys R Us.png

Rawsthron doesn't like it when companies add symbols to the letters, like Toys "R'" Us has done. She slates Aol, and then moves on to the Th!nk in Norway and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, which she says is impossible to pronounce.

Okay, I'm with her on the Mitsubishi observation (and can write these off easily as culturally untransferable), but Aol? Toys "R" Us? These are fairly established brands, not victims of a "trend."

Maybe she is saying that this trend started badly and has only become worse. Close to the end of the piece, she says, "So what does the current fad for adding unpronounceable symbols to names mean? That our perceptions of language have been transformed by the abbreviations we use in texts and e-mails? And that we are so screen-dependent that we tend to type words, rather than write them by hand? Probably."

I'd say "definitely." But I would reword that to say that we type many words that we rarely have to say; that a good part of our branding input comes on a screen.

But, that said, alphanumeric branding is prevalent in the car industry. Many brands, like BMW and Mercedes, have simply always used it.

As far as cars go, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV has nothing on the "Isuzu Mysterious Utility Wizard" or the "Toyota Estima Lucida G Luxury Joyful Canopy."

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Karl Lagerfeld Embraces Online "Masstige" Brand Name

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Karl Lagerfeld.pngThey say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. That is unless you're talking about 78 year old fashion visionary Karl Lagerfeld.

He recently told CNN that his real name should be "Lablefeld," as he is aggressively building up his own name as a fashion brand separate from Chanel, where he is creative director. He now has a namesake signature "masstige" line called "Karl" that you can buy online at Net-a-Porter.

To support the launch he has organized the following blitz, which is designed to bring high fashion to the rest of us:

  • Pop-up shops in major cities, including Paris
  • Lagerfeld "experience" stores (A mix of his Karl line and a new high-end line, as well as all his other interests, like books)
  • Social media marketing
  • A brand book
  • Revamped website
  • Men's wear to hit in fall 2012

Think blazers, biker jackets, jeans, and t-shirts.

There is even a logo that shows his profile featuring his famous ponytail and sunglasses.

His high-end line, called Karl Lagerfeld Paris, will be relaunched in the European market. Add into this his new perfume, called Karleidoscope. He is licensing the name Karl Lagerfeld for an assortment of other products, including Fossil watches and luxury pens made out of nail polish (I know).

Karl is really getting his name out there, shilling for Diet Coke and VW among others. This seems to be a sudden move to make fashion accessible and affordable.

Or maybe just a savvy retirement plan for one of the doyens of fashion.

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Sometimes Barbie Brand Naming is a Little Weird

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ToidokiBarbie.pngRight now, you can get a new Barbie who looks a whole lot less wholesome than the run-of-the-mill doll.

Meet the Tokidoki Barbie. Sporting pink dyed hair and loads of tattoos, this is not your typical Barbie.

Tokidoki is a lifestyle brand that offers us apparel, bags, hats, toys, tech, and many other things. The Barbie version is edgy enough to make the news.

The word Tokidoki means "sometimes" in Japanese, which is a little bit much for a homegirl like Barbie.

Many bloggers feel that the controversy around the Tokidoki Barbie is really a little bit overblown. Yes, she is wearing a black shirt and a small miniskirt, but Barbie has long been willing to flaunt it.

But the doll is not being marketed to children, and the real issue here is the massive tattoo of a dragon on Barbie's back which really reminds most of us of the novel by Stieg Larsson, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Collectors, of course, love this Barbie which has already sold out (only 7,400 Tokidoki Barbies were made).

Still, some people say the Tokidoki Barbie is not "okie-dokie."

However, if you look at the other Barbie dolls open for collection, it seems clear that this is actually one of the tamer offerings. The Christian Louboutin version of the doll looks downright frightening.

And then there is no denying that the Dr. No version is even edgier than Tokidoki, who at least is wearing clothes and not a huge knife and a bikini.

What is more interesting to me is that this doll comes with a real "Bastardino."


I mean, "Bastardino" has to be the strangest toy pet name of the year. Maybe ever.

And yet, I have to admit, it simply means "pooch" in Italian.

But still.

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MacWorld Expo.jpgThe Macworld Expo will kick off this year under the new name Macworld|iWorld (note the "pipe" between the words).

The events general manager discussed the name change and explained, "The brand is evolving from Macworld [Expo] to Macworld|iWorld to illustrate that the show is about the whole ecosystem of Apple products."

This is designed to appeal to people who love all things Apple, with the tagline "The Ultimate iFan event" and will be designed to bring in people who really, really like their iPhones and iPads. The old name did not seem to include these very important customers in the Apple "ecosystem."

People in the press are referring to it as Macworld|iWorld and it begins January 26, 2012. The conference will include "75 talks, including educational sessions, how to presentations, and tips-and-tricks demos" as well as live music and a Film Event that shows how Apple technology is used in movies and TV.

The Expo is now in its 28th year of existence and the goal is to find a bigger fan base outside of the real technophiles and academics who have frequented Macworld Expos in the past.

Notes one insider, "We're hoping to attract that person who walks out of an Apple Store on fire with all the possibilities of what they can do with their new MacBook, iPad, or iPhone. We want to create more of a cultural event - a place for people to celebrate, a place for people to learn, a place for people to hear about new products."

I just have to wonder if the name might evolve yet again. Any name for a public event that features a slash or pipe is likely to be confusing. Right now, "Macworld|iWorld" is awkward.

Why not just call it "iWorld," which is what insiders at Mac are already doing online?

I think iMac people will understand they are invited, too.

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Occupy Wall St Shirt.pngIt had to happen sometime. Somebody has decided to try to trademark the phrase "Occupy Wall Street."

Robert Maresca, an injured Long Island ironworker, has applied for the trademark while a Brooklyn man named Ian McLaughlin has applied for the "We Are the 99%" trademark.

McLaughlin hopes to create bumper stickers, tote bags, hats and so forth using the slogan, while Maresca has been making T-shirts with the "Occupy Wall Street" slogan.

Both men claim that they are not trying to make a buck off of the social movement, particularly Maresca, who claims he's just trying to protect his interests. He and his wife have learned that a trademark is "something of a gamble."


The press finds this amusing, with one writer suggesting that the Marescas would like to join the 1%.

Another blogger suggested they make a "hobo bag" as well as other items that include an "Occupy Condom." Says another blogger, "While it's not categorically a horrible idea - the idea of trademarking something and profiting off the merchandise - this is sort of a horrible idea, right? Unless bankers buy the merchandise out of irony?"

Many good movements have been trademarked. Think Woodstock. Or, think about the way Nelson Mandela has become a brand as well.

But I doubt either of these men are going to take full advantage of the possibilities of trademarking the brand name.

If these two men decide to become squatters on the name, holding the mark to prevent it from being used in documentaries or in a serious franchising effort in order to get top dollar, then I would have to agree that this is a pretty paltry effort to make money from a movement that is critical of shortsighted greed.

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Daniel Craig.pngI always keep an eye on James Bond. He is really the king of product placements, at least in my mind, although I know statistically the girls in Sex and the City have him beat.

The new James Bond movie, now simply entitled James Bond 23, will feature a Range Rover Evoque.

Specifically, James Bond, played by Daniel Craig, will leap from the Jaguar to the new Evoque. This must be wonderful news for Tata Motors, who own both brands, although of course they would've paid for the privilege. We do know that an Evoque was delivered to the set of the new movie.

Land Rovers have been seen in many James Bond movies, including Octopussy, the Living Daylights, and Casino Royale. This is interesting, because the Evoque is actually going to be one of Land Rover's least expensive offerings.


James Bond might be sporting a beard, in this movie, and it looks like this one is going to be much more character driven.

I doubt, however, that they will scale back on the product placement. In any event, shooting begins next month and rumor has it that the title of the movie will be "Skyfall," which is set to be released in November 2012.

Many feel that the Jag that will be featured in the movie will be the new XE/C-X16. This leads one blogger to think that given the timing of the movie we might not see the Evoque but instead the brand-new 2013 Range Rover, which is still in top secret mode.

It seems that James Bond himself is more of a sports car man then somebody who goes for the 4 x 4, but the Range Rover brand suits his sense of bling.

Only time will tell.

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Diddy With Ciroc.jpgResearchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine are starting to wonder if rap singers aren't subtly doing some free advertising for the alcohol industry.

They recently looked at 793 songs from Billboard Magazine's top 100 lists from 2005 - 2007 and discovered that 21.3% of them referred to alcohol. And almost a quarter of those songs referred to brand name alcohol. The brands that get the most mentioned were "Patrón Téquila, Grey Goose Vodka, Hennessy Cognac and Cristal Champagne."

Alcohol companies, of course, are happy to get the recognition, but it seems that many singers are also tangentially involved in the alcohol business. Jay-Z, for instance, owns a percentage of Armadale Vodka while Snoop Dogg was the face for Landy Cognac in 2008 and, not coincidentally, sang a song about it called Luv Drunk.

Now, studies are saying that US teens hear three brand names for every hour of rap music they listen to. Given that the average teen listens to 2.5 hours of music per day, your average kid is hearing 8 alcohol brand names daily.

Rapper With Alcohol.jpg

Some people say American teens are listening to a lot more than simply 2.5 hours of music, suggesting that they hear up to 34 alcohol brand names every day while they listen to music that promotes a "luxury lifestyle characterized by degrading sexual activity, wealth, partying, violence and the use of drugs."

It is no coincidence that the brand names that are most frequently mentioned are also the ones the teenage drinkers seem to prefer. This might be because the way rap stars associate good times with drinking. "The brand names were associated with wealth 63.4 percent of the time; sex, 58.5 percent; luxury objects, 51.2 percent; partying, 48.8 percent; other drugs, 43.9 percent and vehicles, 39 percent, according to the study."

This could suggest that this is a form of advertising that is inadvertently promoting drinking among teenagers. The high prevalence of brand names in rap music is "inconsistent with the alcohol industry's self-regulatory code to prevent marketing to underage drinkers."

Nobody is suggesting that the alcohol industry is part of some nefarious plot, but there is no doubt that drinking is something that musicians have glamorized for years. George Thorogood And The Destroyers sang gleefully of One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer, an adaptation of a John Lee Hooker song from 1966.

The difference here, of course, is that now actual brand names are being touted.

Singing about drinking in the abstract, it seems to me, is a little bit different than singing about it and naming the actual labels on the bottles.

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Droid-Razr.pngThe Motorola Razr is back.

Motorola Mobility announced yesterday that they are introducing a Droid phone that will bear the classic vowel omitted Razr brand name.

The name will reflect the new unit's slim profile and harkens back to the hugely popular phone that the company launched in 2004. The original Razr was an ultrathin flip phone that, for a while at least, was the world's best selling mobile phone.

Motorola was never able to follow up on the success of the Razr and has since all but vanished in the world dominated by the iPhone.

The new phone itself looks really cool.

In a Chicago Tribune article today about bringing back the Razr brand name, I indicated that I can understand why Motorola is doing this, to trade on the Razr brand equity, but feel that initially consumers will associate it as a tired brand.

Motorola thinks that it might be able to deliver the kind of sales that the old flip phone produced. It will indeed be the thinnest smartphone available and offer a water resistant, Kevlar case.

It is interesting to note, as I have in the past, that the Razr spawned quite a few Motorola follow-ups that never quite captured the public's imagination like the Krzr and the Rizr.

MotoACTV.pngBack in 2006 we noted that these names were getting kind of Krzy and felt that Motorola was taking things a bit far with names like Scpl really pushing the boundaries. A Razr is cool, but a Scpl is just scary.

Additionally, Motorola is also introducing an Android-powered smart watch branded as MotoACTV (see image on right).

MotorolaCellPhoneInventor.pngBe careful Motorola, don't repeat the overdoing of vowel omitted branding. Moto itself is an abbreviation of Motorola and I am just wondering how many consumers will get that ACTV is an abbreviation of active.

I think its fair to say that in the active abbreviation, ACTV, consumers will see TV for television and maybe AC for air conditioning. Could this be a device for watching TV on the go?

Maybe Motorola can repeat its previous success of selling over 100 million Razr units, however.

We hope so, since Motorola pioneered the cell phone category.

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Unkillable DeLorean Branding Set To Go Electric

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DeLoreanBrandName101811.pngI have said it before and I will say it again - there are some brand names that just will not die.

Certainly among the top ten of these enduring brands must be DeLorean. As in, the crazy car that was used in the Back to the Future movie.

Here is a car that is underpowered, dated in looks, undependable, associated with a kids' movie and the second most spectacular business failure in history.

And people just love it.

And it's coming back. Insert your Back to the Future joke here.

It will return to us as an electric car, like some ghost of the 80s that simply refuses to die.

Interestingly, this car will actually be faster than the original, although this isn't saying very much considering how underpowered the original car (so long as it did not have a flux capacitor to send it back and forth through time).

By the way, the actual car from the movies is also for sale. I assume that this will go for quite a pretty penny, and proceeds from its auction will go to support the Michael J Fox Foundation, which is the biggest mover in the fight against Parkinson's disease.

The new car will be distributed by the Texas-based DeLorean Motor Company, which has been servicing the needs of the few hundred or so owners who actually keep the retro-mobiles on the road.

The new version, however, will be a "new build" and will most likely bring the DeLorean brand name to a whole new generation of fanatics.

Frankly, partnering the DeLorean brand name with electric technology seems brilliant. Never mind that in the original movies it wound up working off of nuclear fusion, the car has always been forward thinking.

The DeLorean is going to be the electric car for the person who couldn't bring themselves to buy a Prius or a Leaf.

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couple.jpegIt takes a great deal of creativity, linguistics and critical thinking to develop a brand name that hits all the marketing touchpoints, but also resonates with the target market.

This is the challenge that we put forth to the collegiate youth of America with our $2,500 America's Next Top Namer Scholarship for 2011.

This year's applicants were asked to develop a new brand name for an electric vehicle that could be driven continuously by recharging itself via wind energy generated by the car's own propulsion.

While we received many worthy submissions from all four corners of the United States, one applicant's balance of imagination and strategic design stood out with four simple letters...

Mēno, created by Kaylie Foster of the University of Arizona, was derived from the Greek root μένω (transliterated as menō), meaning to continue to be; to last or endure.

Its pronunciation, mee-noh, also evokes an image of something small and speedy by incorporating high-vowel tones.

And in like Romance languages, Spanish and Italian, meno also translates as 'less' or 'fewer,' as in using fewer fossil fuels.

Whether or not this technology ever materializes, we'd liked to congratulate Kaylie on her outstanding display of the tools required to be America's Next Top Namer.

Click here for more information on our America's Next Top Namer Scholarship for 2011.

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BreastCancerAwarenessRibbon.pngIt seems that many brands have "pinked out" for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

American Airlines has a "Fly for the Cure" campaign where users can indicate their location and donations by pinning a pink ribbon to the virtual pinkboard on American Airlines Facebook page. Some departure gates been painted pink as well.

Tic Tacs is now offering us Pink Grapefruit flavor, while Procter & Gamble is teaming up with the Give Hope program and allowing users to create a badge on the charity's Facebook page.

But here's an interesting question. Will associating your brand name with the color pink actually help fight breast cancer?

At least one researcher thinks it will not. Stefano Puntoni from the University of Rotterdam published research experiments that show that because so many women identified positively with the color pink that they go into a "state of denial" when it comes to associating the color with breast cancer.

The color pink is, quite simply, too relevant to the target market.

This is, of course, sending shockwaves in the industry. Not only is it forcing many people to rethink how the fight against breast cancer is branded, but also just what gender specific coloring does when it comes to marketing means.

Some evidence shows us that despite Puntoni's findings, the public reacts positively to breast cancer charities that there the color pink.

Moreover, the color is now unforgettable linked to the fight against breast cancer - so much so that some auto parts companies are in fact changing the color of their products to help in the fight.

At the same time, there is a cause out there called Think before You Pink that seems to seek to expose those companies that simply use the color pink to symbolically fight against breast cancer without doing anything of real value.

I think this type of initiative helps separate those brands that are really involved in the fight from those who are simply using an emotive color to sell a product.

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Google's OS Brand Naming Makes Me Hungry

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I am amused to see that Google has put up an Android shaped Ice Cream Sandwich at the Googleplex.

IceCreamSandwich.pngThis is in honor of their new Android OS entitled Ice Cream Sandwich. This now sits beside other statues dedicated to earlier manifestations of the Android OS, from Cupcake to Donut to Honeycomb, making the front of that particular corporate headquarters look like something out of Willy Wonka.

The official launch of Ice Cream Sandwich happens on October 19 in Hong Kong. It was delayed out of respect to the passing of Steve Jobs.

Google has a long history of naming its operating systems after sweet treats. The new OS is designed to do away with what is known as Android fragmentation, that is, where all of Android phones out there run different versions of Google's mobile OS.

It's almost impossible to write about Ice Cream Sandwich without mentioning the fact it will be a "holographic blend of Gingerbread and Honeycomb." At least one blogger is anticipating a "delicious" release. I must say that whenever I write about these operating systems put out by Google, I find myself getting a bit hungry!

Of course, as I've written about before, Google's code naming system is actually one of the least eccentric out there. According to an interesting blog at the Christian Science Monitor, Mozilla offers us codenames taken from national parks - Bon Echo, Gran Paradiso, Shiretoko, Namoroka, and Tumucumaque.

And the open source system known as Ubuntu, run by South African Mark Shuttleworth, has whimsical animal names with an African flair - Warty Warthog, Hoary Hedgehog, Breezy Badger, Dapper Drake, Edgy Eft, Feisty Fawn, Gutsy Gibbon, Hardy Heron, Intrepid Ibex, Jaunty Jackalope, Karmic Koala, Lucid Lynx, Maverick Meerkat, Natty Narwhal, and Oneiric Ocelot.

I'm excited to see how the release for Ice Cream Sandwich goes as this is a big move from Google.

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DrPepper10.jpgThe trend in diet drink sales is to appeal to men. Men are, in many ways, the last frontier for this sector.

Received wisdom has it that they shy away from diet drinks because the product naming and branding is so clearly feminine.

Dr Pepper has a new drink called Dr Pepper Ten and the company is doing everything to sell the idea that this stuff is indeed macho. In fact, the new ad campaign is taking the route of "No Girls Allowed" quite literally with the tagline "It's Not for Women."

One woman blogger has reacted with some amusement about this noting that the ads, which have a heavy Star Wars flavor, seem to ignore the fact that "there are girls out there who like jungle battles and laser fights with futuristic bad guys."

More than that, she says, "The saddest part, however, is that even though this ad campaign kind of pisses me off, it does it in a way that makes me want to drink Dr Pepper Ten just to spite anyone who thinks I'm not allowed to."

This might be, in fact, what Dr Pepper expects.

There is a school of thought that says that women want to be part of things that they are purposely excluded from. In fact, 40% of those who have tried the drink are women.

There is now a page on Dr Pepper's Facebook, that gives men ideas on how to be more macho, although it is clear that women get the joke.

The packaging is in gunmetal gray and of course it promises only ten "bold tasting calories."

Dr.Pepper10.jpgI leave you with Dr Pepper's 10 Man'Ments. These are snippets of advice taken from the Facebook page:

  1. Thou shalt not OMG. If it's not exploding, it's not exciting.
  2. Thou shalt not pucker up. Kissy faces are never manly.
  3. Thou shalt not post pics of your outfit. Unless it's battle armor and you have a giant sword and/or small bazooka.
  4. Thou shalt not post furry animal videos. Exceptions made for beasts fighting to the death and bears destroying idyllic picnic scenes.
  5. Thou shalt not make a "man-gagement" album. That is all.
  6. Thou shalt not share your horoscope. Daily.
  7. Thou shalt not Instagram your lunch. Real men each lunch, not tweet it.
  8. Thou shalt not untag unflattering pics. We know you were there.
  9. Thou shalt not end a comment with a =).
  10. Thou shalt not make a Facbeook profile for your pet, baby and/or imaginary friend.
The Village Voice notes that there is an eleventh rule: "Thou shalt not follow other people's commandments."

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Steve Jobs - More Than the Apple Brand Name

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SteveJobsAppleYoung.pngThe death of Steve Jobs has brought forth outpourings of admiration even from his enemies.

As actor and comedian Stephen Fry pointed out when Jobs retired from Apple a few weeks ago due to health issues, Steve Jobs made us realize that "passion and belief" could indeed drive a company.

The Apple brand has literally changed the world in a meaningful way.

As one blogger points out, "Apple does not necessarily sell products, it sells aspirations and Jobs was the dream weaver."

He of course coined the brand name Apple.

But he also communicated an entire way of thinking about business and indeed life not only in the products he created but in his numerous presentations for the company.

Thus, the Apple brand name is very much associated with his, much like Richard Branson's is tied to Virgin's brand name.

But many famous company founders whose names were literally synonymous with the company's success managed to hand the reigns over to the next generation successfully.

Professor Ferdinand Porsche gave us a company that still has a massively strong brand name decades after his death.

The same can be said of Enzo Ferrari. Or, for that matter, Coco Chanel.

SteveJobs2011.pngThese people gave us brands that at one time were inextricably linked with their own personalities. But as time wore on, they evolved, while retaining the flair and vision of their founders.

Genius he was, but I will remember Steve most for what he said at the Stanford University Commencement address in 2005.

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life."

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Chobani-Kashi-logos.pngMany of us are fascinated by the etymology of product names and company names.

Where do they come from? How were they created? And most importantly, what do they mean to me?

For instance, Chobani, the Greek yogurt, was derived from the Greek word chopani, which means shepherd in many Mediterranean languages near the childhood home of the founder, Hamdi Ulukaya.

Or how about Kashi, which is rightly associated with healthy foods given that it's a combination of kashruth, meaning kosher/pure food and Kushi, the surname of an American Macrobiotics founder.

Matt Brownell of The Street, interviewed me for my thoughts on what goes into crafting new brand names.

There are six other very interesting examples of name origins in the article.

Plus... for more insight on what goes into a great brand name, you can check out our 3 Great Product Naming Tips.

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