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Category Archives: Marketing

Focus: The Key To Success

A coworker and friend of mine, @drewhawkins, tweeted out a link to an article on why freakonomics trumps logic when it comes to marketing. For those of you unfamiliar with that term, freakonomics is essentially the law of unintended consequences. A broad definition, sure, but when applied to business it makes a lot of sense. A hypothetical example would be something like a high national crime rate being the result of McDonald’s releasing a new McFlurry flavor. Two seemingly unrelated things now have a relationship.

In short, the article linked above talks about how businesses that take the logical approach, like adding additional menu items (Burger King), to grow business actually end up diluting the market and result in a decrease in business. An illogical result, unless you use experiential logic to understand it.

What do I mean by experiential logic? It is a term that may very well exist and have a meaning but I’ve made up my own meaning for it right now. What I mean by experiential logic is: apply your own experiences to expectations instead of what typical practices call for. For a personal example…

When I have had a lot of work to do, and I mean A LOT, I get overwhelmed and try to finish everything at the same time. When I do this only two things can occur: 1) I will pull everything together very quickly, but not do as well as I could have on any single thing, or 2) I will jump around and finish nothing on time. So what’s the solution? Pick one thing. ONE. Get that done, and make it good. Then go on to the next thing and do that with the same quality. And so on.

Doing too much can only make a mess.

Now let’s back up and apply this to real businesses. The Burger King example from the AdAge article continued on and compared BK to Five Guys. BK tries to experiment with a ton of new menu items and their business decreases. Five Guys sticks to the nuts and bolts: burgers and fries, with some extras like grilled cheese and hot dogs. They don’t try to serve smoothies and salads. Five Guys’ business increases in the same time frame.

The second of two points I brought up in this post is something I’ve observed for a while now, and the AdAge article gives yet another point of view in support of it. If you try to make everyone happy, it’s going to hurt you in the long run. Let’s change that a bit for this example: Less is more. Yes, in this case that cliche works perfectly. Five Guys is a burger joint. And it embraces that. They aren’t adding menu items to feed people who want smoothies and salads. They are going to serve a small number of items, but makes sure those items are of a very high quality. And it helps them succeed.

Focus is what it comes down to. There is a limit to what you can focus on without it decreasing the quality of your work (or product, or business). Stick within your limits and you will succeed. The chances of failure doing what you do well (Burger King making burgers, for example) are slim. The chances of failure doing what you’ve never done to appease others (Burger King making…smoothies) are much higher. Become #1 in one thing before trying to be #1 in everything. Otherwise, you’ll never get there.



You’ll Piss Everyone Off If You Try To Please Them All

Just a month ago a campaign was introduced for the California Milk Processor Board that focused on milk reducing out with the symptoms of PMS. Nothing wrong with that right? WRONG. In order to provide the necessary humor that’s needed (or at least helpful) in getting something to go viral, the agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners decided to make men the “target” of the campaign. One thing that I’ve learned in life is that you never, EVER joke about PMS and what causes it, etc….when there are women around. However, this campaign is funny. I find it a stretch in terms of how it will help boost milk sales since there is no man in the history of ever that would go to his wife, girlfriend, mistress, or friend-that-is-a-girl with a carton of milk saying “Hey babe, I know you’re PMS-ing so drink this…it will help you, and everyone around you, get through the next few days alive. Naturally, women flipped and the reaction was strong enough that the campaign had to be pulled.

While I understand the reasons for pulling the campaign, this blog post by my father illustrates a great point that got me thinking: “You have to be evocative to be viral.” This is true in many cases. But what it got me thinking about is that it is next to impossible to be evocative in today’s world without having to pull down whatever it is you’re being evocative with. And herein lies my biggest issue. Well, two biggest issues.

1) Social media is great for creating conversation, but is easily exploited by people wanting to make an issue bigger than it is. Case in point: Nivea recently was forced to pull their “Re-civilized” advertisement because people viewed them as racist and offensive. This became a big deal. I can obviously see where people might get offended by this advertisement, but only because it’s easy to know how those people think. They will see a black man, then the word ‘re-civilize’, and see the unshaven head with the afro and immediately start an uproar. What they have to understand is that when they are crying racism because it’s a black man (they wouldn’t have made a sound if the exact same ad feature a white man) they are the ones distinguishing race here and making it a racial situation. I will go out on a limb here and say that there are African Americans working at Nivea, and that, if they had a problem with this they would have mentioned something. These advertisements go through an approval process that is pretty intense and the legal issues are examined…racism is definitely considered. I try to understand people who think that it’s racist, but I personally don’t think it is at all. When I look at it I see a man throwing out the unclean version of himself and choosing to be well groomed. That may be offensive to the un-groomed types, but I don’t see this as a black man throwing that version of himself out. That is my opinion. I see no racial issues here until people bring them up themselves.

This shouldn’t be a big deal. Nivea responded very well to the issue and pulled the ad and placed a prompt response thanking their customers for being concerned and giving them feedback. Great move on their part. But it was a move they wouldn’t have to make if it wasn’t for people making a huge deal out of something that should never have been a big deal to begin with. Social media allows people who otherwise wouldn’t have a voice to voice their opinions, and it leads to a lot of wasted effort and extra money/time/stress that definitely isn’t needed.

2) If you try to make everyone happy, you will end up pissing them all off. There are too many beliefs, opinions, and idiots out there that it is impossible to make everyone happy at one time. The two campaigns I’ve described above are examples of things that may be slightly offensive to some, but won’t be for a lot of people. One great example of “trying to do too much” is Facebook in the early years (and some of the not-so-early years as well). Facebook tried their best to make all of their users happy, and still does, and how does that help them out? It doesn’t. They have a sub-70% user satisfaction rate…the lowest of all the social networks. They try to update too many features too quickly and it ends up making everyone mad because their are too many changes going on to keep track of. Google+ comes out with their group chat Hangouts and Facebook prematurely released their video chat feature and it’s relatively useless.

Google+ is in danger of hitting this point too. They release a super sexy social network after many failed attempts to join the social space, and they tried to make everyone happy. Grabbing aspects of Facebook (site design, news feed) and Twitter (great for real-time updates, lists (G+’s ‘circles)), Google released a social network that does everything, except entice users to use it. I’ve had issues with Google+’s ability to succeed since the beginning, and it looks like we’re out of the honeymoon phase and heading in that direction. Google needed to release something that made a difference in how people experienced social media, yet they released something that isn’t integrated into their other services (including search!), have actively told brands to not join yet, and have deleted accounts of users not using their real names/are underage (which blocks them from all other Google services as well, including Gmail for which you don’t need to specify age). They are making a mess of a situation in which they are trying to make everyone happy, and have only succeeded in making a majority of people either angry or indifferent.

One company that has done a great job of sticking to their guns? Apple. Apple consistently releases quality products to rave reviews, how do they do this? They start in a vertical, and perfect it. They started their success with iPods. For years they perfected the handheld mp3 player and that’s what they did. After owning that market, they brands slightly out by making a phone. It was one of their iPods with phone capabilities. After phones they’ve moved on to tablets. But what have they consistently done? They stick with one type of product and dedicate themselves to it and branch out once they have reached a high level of success. That’s a huge difference compared to other companies who try to do too much.

There will always be people unhappy with what happens, and there are people who are only happy when they can complain about being unhappy. If everyone in the country won the lottery today there would still be people complaining that they could have won MORE money if not everyone else had won, even though they are being given money for free. It is the nature of people to disagree, compete, debate, and argue. It is this that allows us to be creative and evolve and innovate. But along the way we have to understand that we can’t back out of what we do just to make people happy. Sometimes we have to take a risk and stick by it. Whether that’s altering an ad to make it less controversial rather than pulling it down, or simply defending your position, we have to grow. Otherwise, the ones holding us back will keep winning.

What Is The Future Of Marketing? We Are.

My boss, Jeff Hilimire, published a blog post about the future of advertising and marketing. I loved the post because it addresses something that is almost NEVER done, which is using PEOPLE as the sole marketers of a product. As Jeff says, “I personally think that in the future, WE will be the media.” And I think that we’re slowly reaching that point. All signs lead to it. What do I mean?

  • Brands are constantly talking about becoming “more human.” That is, on social networking sites brands are attempting to take on a more authentic brand voice, rather than sounding like a corporate billboard spitting out cliches and statistics about their company being superior.
  • Relationships in social media matter just as much, if not more than, anything else. Most brands using social media still don’t understand this. In order to succeed and increase trust and loyalty from your customers via your social channels, you must foster relationships down to the individual level.
  • Word of mouth marketing has never been easier to implement. The magic of social media is that it allows anyone and everyone to have their own voice. Sure, some are more visible or more influential than others, but everyone has a space to voice their thoughts and opinions. Word of mouth marketing is one of the most powerful forms of marketing, and the fact that everyone can have a public voice now makes using it all the easier.
  • Identifying influencers has never been easier. With services like Klout becoming more widely known, with constantly updated algorithms that are more accurate almost daily, identifying individuals who are influential both on a general level, and on a brand specific level, is an invaluable tool for brands to use. Allowing influencers of your product to use said product for free may be counter-intuitive but they attention they may bring to your brand is immeasurable.

One thing I have learned while working at Engauge as a Community Manager is that as a brand, you are the least credible person talking about your own brand. When posting content one has to keep in mind that engagement and loyalty are two of the top priorities in social media. Why is this? Because we want our fans and followers to go to their friends and talk about our brand. We can spend all of our time preaching about our own product but in the eyes of consumers, one friend telling them the same exact thing will influence them more. Much more. Brands are credible to a point. They will never enter the “circle of trust” that a friend or role model will already be a part of. Instead of trying to reach that level, brands must utilize the relationships that people already have with their friends, something brands are trying to recreate on their own. The relationships are already there, completely underutilized, and instead of focusing on them brands are trying to duplicate them in a way that can’t be done. You can’t invite brands to your birthday party. You can’t sit with them on the couch and watch NFL Sunday with them. Instead of paying millions of dollars for a week long television campaign, spend less money giving away your product to influencers throwing that birthday party, or throwing a bash for that rivalry game.

The evolution of Klout Perks has me excited because it’s one of the best ways companies are attempting to reach out to individuals who have influence. Sure, you may be giving away something for free but if a celebrity or very influential person starts raving about your product via Twitter, Facebook, their blog, etc. it gives you free advertising that you would have had to pay for otherwise.

There are downsides to this kind of marketing of course. And the tried and true methods of television and print campaigns have been proven time and time again. But for every memorable and successful campaign you can remember there are ten that you can’t. And those busts? Well that company just spent possibly millions of dollars that got them bad press or, even worse, ignored. The negatives for a major campaign like that are very serious. While the negatives of allowing influencers to market your product can be just as great as the positives, there are some difference. You are giving away free product, which is magical in today’s world. Free stuff means a better outlook on things…reviews won’t be as harsh since the person didn’t sacrifice anything for it. Also, giving away to specific people allows you to regulate how many people get the product, which also allows you to stop distributing it if it is bringing in bad buzz. There is more control on the company’s side, making it safer.

I really hope that this type of marketing is embraced in the future because it has such ridiculous potential. There’s a reason companies pay celebrities to endorse products: they hope that people want to be like those celebrities so they will buy those products to emulate them. The only problem is that these messages are commonly interpreted as “that celebrity is being paid to say this” and it loses credibility. With the friend-to-friend word of mouth marketing, that credibility is still intact.

What do you think, is this the future of marketing? I sure hope so.

Domino’s Heats Things Up With It’s New Campaign

This is now on Times Square. Awesome.

Domino’s Pizza has been on a roll recently. After taking a huge hit in April 2009 after a video [it’s since been taken down by Youtube] showed Domino’s employees doing disgusting things to the pizza, the company has taken a very transparent approach to its marketing and advertising efforts. For starters, all advertisements for Domino’s now feature completely untouched imagery of their pizzas; no touch-ups, no Photoshop, nada. The company has gone as far as running a television campaign showing focus groups bashing the the pizza they had been selling for years.

Now fast forward to 2011, where social media has brought about an incredible change in the marketing/advertising and customer service industries. People are able to publicly rant and rave via Facebook and Twitter about miserable experiences (and exceptional ones too!) all they want, and if a company is smart…they won’t try to hide, ignore, or delete those posts. An era of transparency from the company side has emerged, and the lack of trust consumers have in businesses has never been more apparent. Companies have been forced to up the honesty and transparency, and it’s better for everyone.

And here goes Domino’s, upping the ante yet again with their new campaign:

Yeah. That’s right. From now until August 23rd Domino’s will be broadcasting reviews they receive from their Pizza Tracker onto a huge electronic billboard in Times Square. Of course, they will be filtering profanity and other inappropriate content, but in terms of sentiment they will be completely uncensored. That’s one helluva gesture to us consumers.

As a fan of Domino’s I’ve always been fairly faithful in ordering strictly from them when I have a chance, and these types of campaigns are why I am faithful to them. Companies who are willing to put their necks out there and accept praise while also taking the heat for when they make mistakes, and doing what they can to correct those mistakes, is the ultimate show of customer appreciation and trust.

Way to go Domino’s. Keep ’em coming.

Marketers Still Don’t Understand Social Media

“Alright Josh, you’re going to present the Reese’s cases during the presentation. You know it better than I do, so you’re going to speak about it.”

The setting is Shanghai, in the offices of WE Marketing. I am being told that I am going to present case studies to an audience of 40 or so individuals from news outlets, companies like JP Morgan, and other advertising agencies in China. Crap…

Actually, it went well, and it was not that difficult once I got started. The hardest part of the presentation came during the Q&A session afterwards. Many of the questions had to do with people being skeptical about the numbers we gave for cases we presented. “So this campaign ran over the course of two weeks and you only got 25 million impressions and .2% feedback from fans? How is that successful?” In Shanghai they can run a television campaign for half the time, and get five times the impressions.

The plain truth is that social media cannot be ignored by businesses because of it’s penetration into consumers’ lives…but it is terribly easy to play devil’s advocate and say “so what? these numbers aren’t impressive at all.” In my opinion, playing devil’s advocate is a great idea. It helps you see things from other points of view, and helps you find where you need to tweak things in order to deliver the best you can. However, with social media you can’t be too skeptical and try to discount the numbers because you have to read between the lines to see the true potential and benefits of social media. What do I mean? Well here are to questions/statements I’ve heard that I feel miss the point of social media, and my explanations for both:

Relationships > Quick Numbers

Relationships in social media don’t matter. Marketing is all about revenue, right?

Recently, social media scientist Dan Zarrella wrote a blog post about an experiment in ran in which he examined two popular Facebook pages, and the correlation between the number of views a post gets and the percentage of feedback for those same posts. He found that there is an explicit negative correlation between the two. In the end the conclusion the data presents is that the amount of conversation on a post has nothing to do with how many times that post is seen. While this is can’t be debated (based on the data)…what can be is Dan’s conclusion based off the data which says this: “Once again, we find that conversations have very little (if anything) to do with reach-building social media marketing effectiveness.” This, in my opinion, is entirely wrong.

I shared with Dan my opinion and he asked me “Marketing is all about revenue, right?” as a response, ultimately saying (correct me if I’m mistaken) that since conversations don’t lead to more views (therefore, more money), they don’t matter. I disagree with this because those conversations are what differentiate social media with every other type of marketing; conversations increase loyalty and create brand advocates that will show support for your brand to others. I’ll ask you to consider this scenario:

You have the option of running a campaign on Facebook one of two ways:

1) You are guaranteed fifty million impressions, no matter what.

2) You are guaranteed 100,000 brand advocates that are fiercely loyal to your brand and talk about it passionately and promote it (face it, Apple fanboys ALL do this).

Now which option would you choose? Keep in mind that an impression is simply counted when your post or ad appears on a users screen, below the fold or not, whether the user interacts with the ad or has no further action. I am choosing the 100,000 advocates no sweat. I don’t care if that 100,000 is one half of one percent of the number of impressions in the first option or not. I realize both scenarios are completely unrealistic in that you can’t guarantee a number of impressions or hardcore fans as a result of a campaign, but I think you get my point. I’m going to want to create brand loyalists out of my fans rather than just post content to get views. In the end you will get more views and money with a loyal brand following than with a bunch of empty views.

So you received 25 million impressions in two weeks, and 45,000 interactions. That doesn’t seem very impressive.

This is not an exact quote (the numbers aren’t the real numbers), but a close enough representation, of a statement given by a member of the audience during the presentation in China. In the United States these numbers are generally accepted as pretty awesome, for many brands. As a result, I didn’t immediately know how to answer this. After thinking about it after the presentation for awhile I realized this: While those numbers may seem small (especially in a country four times the size of the United States), it’s what lies beneath the numbers that matters. The 25 million impressions are impressive; adjust it for China to make it proportionate and that’s 100+ million impressions in two weeks.  The important thing is that a good percentage of those impressions, and almost all of the interactions, are from people who care about your brand enough to respond. How many posts do you see on Facebook a day? And how many of them do you like or comment on? I’m guessing an incredibly small number. The tens of thousands of people who like your brand enough to let you know their opinion are exactly the people you’re marketing towards.

The Reese’s Facebook page currently has over 7.5 million fans. Are you really going to try to market to every single one of them to make them happy? If you do you’re making a big mistake. It is impossible to please everyone. Find the core of your brand followers and make them happy. The ones who are happy with your brand are the ones that will promote the hell out of it to everyone they know. Make them happy. The others will follow along in the end if you stay true to your brand’s message and personality.

Final thoughts.

Social media isn’t going anywhere, whether you like it or not. Embrace it or it will leave you, and your business, behind. This is what you need to understand about social media:

  • Conversations matter in marketing now. Social media is different from all other marketing before it because it allows you to have conversations with individuals in real-time (or close to it) which allows you to increase loyalty, trust, and credibility.
  • Numbers and immediate return aren’t the name in this game. Social media analytics make it very clear that the number of people actually paying attention to your content, and responding to it, is very, very small.. However, I am willing to bet that the average television commercial doesn’t reach .5% feedback from viewers. Those commercials can’t be nearly as precise as social media posts in determining who sees them, and what interests those viewers have. Just because social media gives people numbers that were unavailable for the other types of marketing, doesn’t give people the right to denounce them…because the numbers for television and print would be the same, and most likely worse.
  • We need to stop thinking of social media marketing like we do the other types of marketing, it’s more like networking. When you go to a networking event, to essentially promote your own personal brand to others, do you try to run to every person at the event, shake their hands, say a few words, then move on to the next person? No. You have meaningful conversations with as many people as possible, but don’t attempt to meet everyone. If you meet someone very memorable, charismatic, or influential what happens? You tell your friends and/or coworkers about them. Voila! You’ve essentially done exactly what marketers need to do via their social media channels. Network the fans closest to you, get to know their interests, and provide content that will pique those interests and get them talking about you.

[UPDATE] Why Lady Gaga and Amazon Just ‘Get It’ Better Than You Do

Lady Gaga is known for her outrageous and eccentric attire on stage and in the public image (and just a tad bit of musical talent as well). Amazon is known for being one of the largest online stores, quality customer service, and great deals. When you put them together what do you get? A stroke of genius that proves just how much more they understand the way consumers work these days.

Mashable posted this morning that Lady Gaga is selling her new album for only 99 cents via Amazon. Amazon is also sweetening the deal by forking over 20 gigs of Cloud Drive storage per purchase. This is a major move by both the artist and vendor; rarely has an album been priced for so little, let alone the release of a brand new album from arguably the hottest artist right now (her single “Born This Way” was the fastest selling single in iTunes history). So why are Gage and Amazon charging less than a dollar for an album that millions would purchase for $10-15 dollars without hesitation? Well…

1) Simply because she can. Money isn’t an issue for Lady Gaga OR Amazon…not one album’s worth at least.

2) She understands that consumers in the present day need incentive to buy into something…but if they love, and are loyal to the person/product, they will promote it effortlessly and persuade their peers to buy into it as well. Selling an album for a dollar seems a lot less serious when you consider that Gaga has ~45 million combined fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter that are sure to pay up a dollar for her new album…and then post tweets, statuses, personal messages, and many other types of free Gaga advertising all on their own. Not a bad way to get the word out huh?

3) Amazon’s Cloud Drive is a direct competitor of Google’s and harnessing the power of 45 million Gaga fans, plus Amazon’s fans and massive email list, allows it to immediately compete and perhaps succeed against a giant like Google.

4) Gaga’s reputation as a unique, barrier-pushing artist (check out her recent SNL performance where she sported a pregnancy “bump” whilst performing “Born This Way”) is only bolstered by a bold move like this. It continues her trend as the artist doing things unlike any before her, and also sends a nice message to her fans showing that she cares about them beyond their money.

The end result of this campaign, assuming it reaches the same level of success as Gaga’s music career or Amazon’s online success, will more than make up for any losses taken from selling the album for such a low price.

This is a great strategy. It will get tons of press (I have already seen people I know sending emails and posting on Facebook about it) and allows both parties involved to gain new fans and customers. Possibly (however unlikely) it could also pave the way for a new business strategy that could help save the music industry from its ongoing troubles with pirating, torrents, and such. Now how cool would that be?

What do you think? Is Lady Gaga doing something smart, or is it another attention grabbing headline that will pass without a big deal being made of it?



The Amazon servers got hit so hard from the Gaga faithful that the album downloads are now delayed. As a result people are ripping the digital music service by giving the album one star ratings. I am personally having trouble figuring out if this is a measure of extreme success, or extreme failure. Obviously Lady Gaga has nothing to do with this, except making her fans way too insane so that they cause an event like this to occur. Amazon definitely has to except the blame for this…seeing as how Gaga’s following has helped her become the world’s most powerful celebrity according to Forbes.

While something like this occurring would negatively impact a campaign or business move under normal circumstances…I believe that this will be the exception. Nobody is going to not buy the album for a dollar because it will take them a little while longer to get it, and the fanbase is so gaga for Gaga that this will just create more press and draw attention to it. Lady Gaga will escape from this unharmed, if not even more formidable. Amazon may have some explaining to do, and will most likely take a PR hit, however.

Props to Gaga though for helping to crash the Amazon servers that are able to handle things like Black Friday rushes and other massive deals. It just shows you how amazing the artist really is.

LivingSocial Steps It Up For Japan

Livingsocial + Japan > Groupon

In the never-ending battle for “Best Daily Deal website,” a category that Groupon basically dominates, LivingSocial just pulled a move that pushed them right up there next to Groupon for me. LivingSocial’s daily deal for today is a deal that doesn’t benefit anyone more than Japan. In the wake of the devastating earthquake that happened last week, relief efforts have been in full swing. What better way to raise a TON of money than make your daily deal $5 for a $10 donation to the relief efforts through the American Red Cross? LivingSocial will make a 100% match to all donations made through the deal.

As of 11:45am it has already raised $1.7 million and that is rising very very quickly (think 20k every few minutes); that equals 170,000 deals purchased so far, and climbing.

I love this idea from LivingSocial because it supports an international cause for a tremendously serious crisis, it taps into one of the fastest growing markets (daily deals), and it shows that LivingSocial can promote HELP for a cause rather than promote themselves…unlike Groupon in this infamous Super Bowl Commercial:

This was a fantastic play by LivingSocial and I can only imagine that it will help them compete with Groupon. What do you think of the campaign? Have you purchased the deal yet? If not, please do!

Honest Tea Is The Best Policy


One of my favorite drinks, by far, is Honest Tea’s green tea with honey. It’s delicious, and I also have found out that it is one of the best green tea drinks too. That’s just icing on the cake.

Now, Honest Tea has gone and performed a great publicity stunt that I wish I would have seen…and not just because I could have scored a free bottle or two of such a delicious beverage, but because it reportedly earned them $3.5 million in advertising value using an extremely low cost campaign. A quick summary of the campaign:

  • Honest Tea set up an Honest Tea “store” on the streets of the seven largest US cities that were filled to the brim with bottles of their product.
  • Each store was run on the honor system. People passing by were asked to pay one dollar for a bottle, and to put the dollar in a clear, glass case before taking their bottle.
  • The percentage of “honest” people was measured in each city by seeing how many dollars were in the cases compared to the number of bottles taken.
  • Surprisingly no city had a lower score than 75% (Chicago), and Boston had an unbelievable honesty score of 93%.

Why do I like this campaign? Because it 1) plays perfectly into their product image, 2) It’s a highly successful buzz creator for little cost, 3) It’s a promotion for something healthy, which is so rare these days it just makes my eyes feel better reading about it, 4) It makes people think about more than just the product they are buying/stealing, and 5) having the entire experience video taped seemed to contradict the “honor system” theme, but certainly provides some good footage of a split-second moral decision.

Here’s a video detailing the campaign further:

HONEST TEA from SS+K on Vimeo.

So how would you have approached the situation? Paid one dollar for a bottle, or just taken one and run? Do you think campaigns like this are good ideas?