The Benefits of Being Weird

How niche marketing has changed the world

If you’ve ever been down Pier 39 in San Francisco (one of our favorite places), you have seen Lefty’s, a quirky retail store filled to the brim with products designed to make a left-handed person’s life easier. Back in 1978, Lefty’s was called “the Left Hand World” and was in a much smaller space, as the original owners didn’t have many products to sell. As the first retailer of left-handed products, however, the idea immediately garnered a substantial fan base, and was sorely missed when the Left Hand World left the pier 10 years later. Due to the incessant requests to reinstate a left-handed products vendor, Lefty’s opened in 2008 with house-designed products and a deeper love for the 10% of the population that is left-handed.

Yeah, left-handed office supplies are an oddly-specific thing to sell so close to Fisherman’s Wharf. So what made Lefty’s so successful when its target market is nowhere near as massive as, say, Walmart’s? Well, for one, they know how weird they are and they own it. They don’t have a “right handed” section or mass produce printing paper on the side: they stick with the people that use their products and encourage a bit of pride in their uniqueness. Because of this genuine attitude, left-handed people and the people that love them have taken notice for past 40-ish years and work hard to keep the place running. It was a service that was missed when it left the pier and customers don’t want to see such a drought again.

When you find your people, your biggest supporters, it’s hard to go out of business. So one of the key things you can do if you are struggling to find your niche with your product or service is to define who your target market really is. Research can help with this. Putting the concept in front of the general population for your service or product can help identify those who want to identify with you. If you have been in business for a time, then putting some numbers behind the beliefs you have about who is buying you–that can be truly revealing. More often than not, in our experience, there have been some real surprises when a company profiles their customers. It’s the Moneyball principal.  Let the facts destroy conventional wisdom so you can make better decisions.

Another area this can be helpful is with pricing. We know from years of research that consumers seek out premium things at premium prices. But when surveyed or focus grouped in traditional ways, the answer you will get is always going to be ‘lower your prices.’ Think about it. What person in their right mind is going to tell you to raise your prices? Asking consumers if the price is right or what price they should be paying for your product is about the stupidest way to go about it. Really. Here, we take our cue from behavioral economics as well as clinical testing, and instead of asking people what they would want to or expect to pay for a product, we conduct a controlled experiment and gauge market potential at different price points. Then, and only thne can you get a sincere reaction from people about what they would really pay–because they don’t know you are focused on price. They just know they are being asked to make a decision about what they would buy in an almost real world situation. 

There is so much more that research can tell us, especially when your questions are as unique as your niche business. The big brands don’t wonder about the same things you do and they have much bigger budgets to spend on asking their questions, so it almost seems like research is a luxury meant only for the big guys. But here at TripleScoop we know that the right questions are the difference between success and failure. And because we’re in a niche kind of like you are, we want to make the right question just as easily accessible to you and your budget.

You can stop flying by the seat of your pants and get some solid direction: let’s set up a time to figure out what questions we can help you answer so that you can be going in the right direction for your passion project/livelihood. We think that what you do can change the world so we want to see you succeed.

New Paths with New Technologies

 “We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.” ― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

“Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone.” – Steven Spielberg

The world of movie animation has come a long way from the black and white sketchings first debuted on the silver screen. Animators are using amazing technologies that bring art to life, telling and retelling stories that take years to construct into a final product meant to dazzle movie-goers and delight children of all ages. Disney and other animation big names encourage the development of technology as time progresses and there are more opportunities to uncover innovation in their field.

An innate sense of curiosity helps the people behind the magic to keep putting new things in front of audiences. While Disney was introducing his idea of adding depth to animation through the multiplane camera (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kN-eCBAOw60), he likely did not imagine that one day his team of animators would be showing audiences 3D films with life-like movements in every hair follicle. But we know that his vision was far beyond the scope of each film project. He shared that vision with others, pushing them to figure out better and brighter ways to make art come alive, to make magic happen, and to bring happiness to as many people as possible. He knew that new ways of doing things would work towards convincing audiences of the reality of the stories he presented.

 

Watch the infamous Disney explain the tech of the multiplane camera, a game-changer in animation at the time

Though the technology is ever changing, the idea of telling a story is a constant. If a movie relies too heavily on its technology, it’s not easy to watch, but if the story is amazing, new, heart-wrenching and all those good things, well--that’s exactly what we’re looking for. To tell a story better, animators will actually develop new technologies mid-project, allowing their characters and ideas to become more realistic in order to reflect the reality of the lessons of a story.

The best way to know that a movie’s story is more important than the technology behind it, is to examine it years down the road. We can watch classics like Snow White and Bambi and still be delighted by the characters, music, and whimsical drawing style. These films are classics not because of how they look, but what their stories teach us, show us, and how they relate to us. Recently, Disney has started translating these classic stories into live-action films, enhanced by computer-based animation technologies--something not possible when the stories were originally told. What is fascinating is that they are not merely reproducing the same story with a different look, but they are unraveling character background stories, adding new elements and experimenting with technology to best tell these new stories. When one of these reboots focuses more on simply the cool new tech, audiences everywhere leave disappointed--and the box office numbers prove it.

Research is very much the same:

There are so many cool new technologies surrounding research. We can now talk to Beijing in real-time to get reactions to advertisements, discuss purchasing habits, and learn about how cultural differences affect brand perceptions. We can survey people on the store they are shopping in right now by pinging their phones for a couple quick questions. We have access to big data, which shows us the mob mentality of consumers in very compelling ways. We can listen in on chats between consumers about lifestyle and brand usage without even prompting them. There are lots of developers in the research world alone creating apps to talk to consumers where we weren’t able to before. It is incredibly unbelievable what we can do.

But that technology shouldn’t be all that we wield as researchers. If we focus on these cool tools, it’s easy to lose the reason we’re doing this: to find the story and actual CONNECT with the consumer. The great thing about these cool new technologies is that we are privileged to see the bigger picture, the wider range, the minute details, and the individual reactions. These pieces only add together to create a satisfying research experience when the researcher puts them together in a story.

We love finding the story. It’s focused, it’s action-oriented, and it’s inspiring. When we report back to our clients, we rarely mention the tech we used and instead dive right into all the cool stuff we found out. We take our time before handing over our reports to make sure that we’re telling the story as it should be told; focusing on what actions our clients can take next and why those actions are important.

We also know that sometimes a project should be done with a little bit more of the old-fashioned, and we’re not afraid of it. There is still merit to the wonderful techniques that were used for years before all this fancy tech came along. We’re not afraid of old-school because we know how important the end-game is; we know that the people are what it’s all about.

Our Joint Venture with KPI

Since airports are becoming more interested in consumer marketing, they’re seeking for experts to help them connect with passengers to better understand them. Seeing as we are experts in discovering the story behind customer decisions, their purchasing behavior, and their satisfaction, we knew that we could help airports be more successful on the consumer-facing front. However, there are lots of things in airports that we are far from experienced on. Enter KPI, a leading expert on aviation marketing solutions. KPI specializes in marketing for airports on a global scale. Their broad experience with helping airports to talk to consumers pairs seamlessly with our ability to connect with consumers, diving deep into the specifics of individual customer experience.

The next step in our partnership is getting inside the Phoenix Airport. Seeking to be a consumer-facing facility, Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport will be the new workplace of a team of TripleScoop Interviewers. They will be chatting face-to-face with passengers, using new technologies to make the in-person interview experience effective and exciting for the participants. We will be at the Phoenix Airport for a year in order to ensure that we capture the full range of destinations and demographics. Watch for us at your departure gate!

Quiet2

“There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas”

-Susan Cain

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking

If you've ever watched a focus group, you know the truth in that quote.

Think about it: since the dawn of the focus group over 75 years ago, qualitative insights have been dominated by the loud people. Really, such social settings are built for the robustly out-spoken: A moderator asks a question, and the first to speak gets first dibs on where the conversation heads. Even if the first opinion is not the greatest.

Stephen King once said; "Quiet people have the loudest minds." So how do you get some awe-inspiring insights from the quiet ones?

With the advent of digital qualitative, we have seen fresh new insights emerge as the quiet ones were finally given a voice they were comfortable using. Behind a keyboard and screen, focus group participants are allowed time to construct thoughts and opinions, pressing the "submit" button at their own pace. Every opinion is heard, and no person is louder than the other (unless they use all caps, which should be placed under the seven deadly sins at this point). As digital qualitative options continue to evolve, and the quiet ones can unleash their loud thoughts, insights will become more diverse and representative.

Bad Pianos

January 24, 1975. Fighting 24 hours without sleep and road weariness, Jazz pianist Keith Jarrett stews backstage because the piano on stage is not what he requested. It’s a battered rehearsal piano that is badly out of tune, tinny sounding on the high and low ends, several keys stick and the pedals don’t work. Finally convinced to go on, he has his manager record the performance to serve as a warning to others. Forced out of his comfort zone, literally, he plays standing up to get leverage on the keys. He uses more of the middle keys than normal. The bad piano wrings an amazing performance out of him. The recording sells over 3 million copies and is enshrined in the Grammy Hall of Fame. None of that would have happened had he had the perfect piano requested. Think about it.

#badpianosmakegreatmusic

Bad Pianos

How is this relevant to marketing, business or research specifically?  Probably in hundreds of ways. Who hasn't been forced to work with a bad piano--metaphorically speaking?  This is exactly the kind of circumstance that led Billy Beane to look to statistical analysis to evaluate players and develop the whole Moneyball thing. It's how so many really awesome products come to fruition. 

But this is the part of the site that is meant to put the hard sell on you and help convince you to give us a shot at doing some market research for you. And I promised a case study in the postcard, right?  (Or if you saw the tweet, it came from there. Either a promise is a promise. And if from the tweet, but you would like to get the postcard, let me know and I will put you on our mailing list. We do some fun postcards that end up as cubicle art for folks.  Just go here to let me know you want that.)

So, a relevant case.  The Case of the Successful Competitor. 

A few years ago, one of our clients faced a strong up and comer of a competitor.  Without revealing specifically who was involved--client or competitor--I can say it was in the whole bathroom cleaning category.  This is a pretty competitive arena.  The client had a product that had long dominated the category and was basically a nice cash cow for them. It worked well and instilled great loyalty in the product as well as the brand.  Then this innovative competitor seemingly came out of nowhere with a new-and-improved version of the classic product. And they were doing really well, having captured almost half the share of our client's classic product.  

Now that's a bad piano situation, for sure.

The research?  Nothing I would call super innovative or scary new. We just did a week-long bulletin board.  (Bulletin board or community?  You could call it either. It's all a question of where do you draw the line in defining one or the other? Is it length of time--then maybe this was a community.  Was it the number of participants--maybe more of a bulletin board. Types of activities--a little of both. Just to keep from falling off the cliffs of insanity, I will refer to it as a bulletin board.)Basically a bulletin board that incorporated some pseudo-ethnography methods into the mix.   

Back to the case study. Sorry about that philosophically digression.

We recruited two groups of consumers--those that had actually tried this new product and those who were aware but hadn't tried it.  This was qualitative--we wanted to explore the use and consumer perceptions of the new product and also the barriers to trial--so we kept the numbers to just over 20 consumers in each of the two groups.  

We recruited these consumers using a consumer panel and recruited broadly enough that we got a quick read on awareness levels for products in this category. One of the first insights was that the competitor had as high of awareness among consumers as one of the client's product extensions--one that was directly competing with this newcomer.

We used Focus Forums as the bulletin board platform. (They have recently hatched - pun intended - HatchTank, a platform we really like and use now quite often that uses the discussion board platform and provides even more flexibility and functionality for community-like activities in a discussion.) 

On day 1 of 5, we held a brief discussion to learn about our participants and provide them instructions for the next three days.  We learned about their cleaning and shopping habits, how they felt about cleaning in general and also their awareness and usage of this new competitor. 

Then, over a three-day weekend, we asked to try the new product and put it head-to-head against the client's product. They journaled their experiences, including taking digital pictures and posting them for us to see.  

Then we ended with two days of more discussion around how they used the products in the trial (things like did they follow the directions) and how they felt the products compared.  We focused here on their sensory perceptions for part of the discussion.  

Those are the mechanics. What's more important are the relevant insights. And I can't exactly share those with you in detail.  Wish I could, but the products are still on the shelf and competing against one another.  But what helped us get to those insights?

  • An average of 56 posts from each participant meant we had a lot of their time and attention and lots of qualitative data to work with. 
  • We learned how consumers really felt about bathroom cleaning and the humiliation of a messy bathroom, and most importantly, how that affects perceptions of new products and the search for the holy grail of bathroom cleaners.
  • In words and pictures, we got it straight from the consumer's mouth (and mind) what worked for them with the new cleaner. It wasn't colored by the biases of employees, especially R&D scientists who, as smart and adept as they often are, see the world in terms of chemical solutions, formulations, etc. and not in the perceptions of consumers, which are often diametrically opposed worlds. 
  • We explored the emotions of bathroom cleaning which revealed some key performance factors the competitor had that fit right into consumer emotional states and thus why they were doing well. Combined with getting consumers to focus on their senses during the use of the product and report on sight, smell, touch, etc., we were able to identify key deficiencies--from the consumer's perspective--in the current product and what made this new product exciting and engaging.
  • Through side-by-side usage and photo documentation, we could really step into the consumer's shoes and understand more fully why certain features were a greater draw and made one product credibly better than the other. 

What did it lead to? That's what is most important, right?

Glad you asked. This--notice the additional scent. That was a direct outcome of the research. As is the focus on anti-bacterial properties--a competitive strength for the client against this specific competitor. And, this, one of the product extensions got a well-deserved boost by focusing on Ultra Cling--something that arose directly out of the research as well.  (When I say that these things came out of the research, I am in no way implying that there wasn't additional research done as well as good thinking by the marketing teams and R&D scientists to get there. The research helped set all that in the right direction. That's what good research does. It enables great thinking and execution.)

By the way, did you like how I referenced some classic medieval movies in this post? Yeah, I did just recently watch Princess Bride for the umpteenth time. 

More about the recording of the Köln Concert itself:

From The Guardian's 50 Great Moments in Jazz.

From Deadspin a little deeper, metaphysical look at the concert and ensuing success of the album.

From The Observer on the 40th Anniversary of the concert.

Unfortunately, there are no online streaming versions of the actual music. So take a leap of faith that it is good (it really is) and buy the album in the format you prefer.  

The caveats of market research reports

Finger pointing_market researchWe’ve all read (and probably written) one of those “caveat” pages within a market research report.  You know what I am talking about – the ones that list the limitations to the research.  I get why they exist and most of them make sense to me.  One of the caveats, quite frankly, really irks me though.  It is the statement “because customers are poor predictors of their own behavior we…. (insert analytical method here)”.

In other words, the customer isn’t in-tune enough with their needs but due to the magic of statistics and our high level of intelligence we can morph what they told us into what they really meant.

How arrogant are we?!

Yes, I understand statistics and I understand that these are “tried and true” research analytics.  Like I said, they have their place in the market research world. I am not suggesting we get rid of those methods.  I am however suggesting we not use it an excuse to be lazy or uncreative in our research efforts.

As marketing researchers we will spend hours crafting the “perfect” survey – refining, fine tuning, and refining some more until we ask the questions exactly the way we think it needs to be asked.  We go through this process because we understand that the science of marketing research suggests that the answers we get depend on the questions we ask.  But, upon examination of the data we add some caveats to our “science” thereby turning it back into an art.  We are essentially saying that our questions are “spot on” (science) but the respondents answers aren’t REALLY accurate because their answers are so subjective (art).

Could it be that the problem is not them – but us?! <gasp>.  Could it be that we are not asking the questions the right way or at the right time or in the right place?  Again, I am not suggesting we throw out predictive statistics or anything like that.  I am however suggesting that we use the tools we have (especially social media tools and “big data”) to place more trust in the respondents ability to tell us what they truly think and feel and why they feel that way.

Respondents are not the ones to blame for poor marketing research insights.  We are.  Let’s change that by changing the way we collect, analyze, and synthesize consumer feedback.

Mountain Dew Driven Insights

Comprehensive study of focus groups discovers Mountain Dew the key to powerful insights.

Sedalia, CO – April 1, 2016 – The TripleScoop Premium Market Research team spent hours upon hours poring over focus group videos to identify ways to bring out richer insights.

The analysis involved viewing approximately 48,321.7 hours of focus group video from a variety of moderators and locations. Participants were assigned an Insight Power Rating based on the strength, depth and richness of the insights they brought to the group. Then, each participant was categorized into over 400 variables including such items as whether they wore glasses, their hair color, the color of their clothes (and whether they color coordinated their outfits well), their position around the table, whether they appeared sober or inebriated, had facial hair, and so on. The Insight Power Rating was analyzed against these variables.

It turns out that most of those variables have no correlation with the Insight Power Rating. Especially surprising was that the quality of the discussion guide, the moderator’s use of projective techniques or even the snacks in the backroom have virtually no effect.

The one factor that makes a difference:  Mountain Dew.

Yes, in the end, it all comes down to the beverage the participant drinks. Participants that drink Mountain Dew are better participants and provide much better insights than any others. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Diet Dew or regular. Though we did uncover that those who drink either Code Red or Baja Blast provide exponentially stronger insights. Unfortunately, Baja Blast is no longer available in stores, only at Taco Bell. (At least one focus group facility is already in talks with Taco Bell to bring the stores into their facilities.)

The amount of Mountain Dew consumed, if twelve ounces or less, has no impact on the the Insights Power rating. However, consumption greater than 24 ounces (two cans) was seen to lead to increased usage of the facilities–and we are not talking about the focus group facility here–and thus diminished the Insight Power rating of the Mountain Dew consuming participant by about 13.4%.

Mountain Dew consumption also had an impact on the whole group’s Insight Power Rating if the moderator consumed Mountain Dew while leading the group. It’s multiplier effect of about 25.4%.

In response to this news, the Fieldwork Denver focus group facility removed all other beverages from their premises and insist participants only consume Mountain Dew during groups. Other beverages may be allowed for IDI’s where the connection to stronger insights has yet to be established.

TripleScoop is now stocking the company fridge with Mountain Dew and studying whether The Dew’s insight production powers also apply to research managers and analysts. We should point out that our moderator’s drink Mountain Dew while leading focus groups.

The TripleScoop fridge - an actual photograph. (Not life size.)

The TripleScoop fridge – an actual photograph. (Not life size.)

TripleScoop is a market research company that specializes in leveraging technology (and now, Mountain Dew) to better engage and draw out those insights that reframe your marketing and new product development opportunities.

Mountain Dew is a citrus soda made by Pepsico  But that’s a truly bland description of the most amazing soda in the world. Not only does the Dew bring out richer insights in focus group participants, combined with Red Vines and Nyquil it cures the common cold.  And Mountain Dew is the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of popcorn to binge watch Broadchurch on Netflix.

Contact:
Sidd Finch
metsphenom@triplescoop.biz
5377 N. Highway 67
Sedalia, CO 80135
Ph: 303-325-6705
@TripleScoopPMR

Note: All the brand names used in this article were used without any permission, but were included because we love them. That’s because this is an April Fool’s joke, not a serious thing. So we are pretty sure we are on good legal footing with Fair Use of Copyright laws. Also, none of this is real, except the cold-fighting properties of Mountain Dew and Red Vines. That combo really works.

The Fake Fireplace

The Fake Fireplace

The mind is a strange thing.

Now that a chillier season has begun to emerge with its snowcapped mountains and storm-brewing days, we are feeling an increased need for warmth at the office, or at least, the impression of warmth.

Last week, my boss reminded me of the previous winter when he had inspired me to turn on a youtube fireplace because I was definitely feeling cold in my location sandwiched between the windows. Later, when he saw me with the fire crackling on my second screen, he said, “You know, walking by and seeing that fireplace going makes it seem warmer in here!”

Sure enough, he tried it out again this year and still claims that it really does the trick to making him feel warmer! Now of course, it’s not a real fire. I’m obviously not arguing against that. However, I am arguing that it doesn’t actually have to exude warmth to provide a sense of warmth. I believe that when we see the constant flames and hear the firewood crackling, even from a computer screen, our brain associates these senses with warmth.

Within market research conducted online, there are ways to get the brain to associate with a “sense of warmth” or an “inviting atmosphere” without actually being in-person. Yet it is not uncommon for clients and market researchers to get stuck on how different online is from in-person. I agree that it is different. But I also believe that it offers similar and additional benefits.

Like my fake fireplace, you can simply trigger people’s senses with what they are already used to, causing them to react in a similar way and receive a similar benefit. For example, the youtube fireplace is visually and audibly cohesive with what people are used to seeing and hearing. So even though they are not getting the entire package, two primary things are still consistent with the real-life experience. Plus, you don’t even have to chop firewood, or stoke the fire, or worry about getting too warm!

In the same manner, online market research offers elements to “trigger” respondents senses.

  • Feature a photo of yourself as well as a video format of the introduction or even some of your questions. Additionally encourage your participants to share photos and video from their end to build rapport.
  • Within your writing, communicate an engaging tone of voice and style. The way you interact doesn’t change just because you’re online.
  • There are ways to encourage your respondents to occasionally respond to and piggyback off of each other’s comments the way they would in a live discussion together.
  • Online interaction is a comfort zone for many people nowadays. The percentage of digital interaction on a day-to-day basis has rapidly increased and led today’s generation toward a mindset of having a large part of their social circle online.
  • Genuinely acknowledge everyone’s contributions to reinforce their willingness to participate and ease them into feeling comfortable with sharing their thoughts.

Screenshot 2015-10-28 14.51.28

Additionally, online market research offers further elements that create a “sense of warmth” in a way that perhaps in-person cannot:

  • The platform and interaction levels allow for anonymity in potentially sensitive or awkward topics and situations.
  • People can answer conveniently in their free time despite their funky work hours or demanding children.
  • Introverts or those with adverse opinions are equally heard. They are less intimidated to bring something up against the grain or contrary to the dominant ones.

So yes, online research is different than in-person research. But it is not a completely different, foreign, out-of-this-world kind of thing. It is very much patterned after the techniques and purposes of in-person. And although you may miss some facial expressions and body language and that “intangible something” in the room when literally face-to-face with respondents, you can still capture the essence of all of that is meant to create: trust. Them trusting in you so that they will share thoughtful and genuine responses.

#work

20151012_133241

What insights are we missing out on just because the getting to them is tedious or hard? What customers are we missing conversations with simply because starting the conversation is not convenient? What do we not hear because we think it’s not the right time of the year?

Though Edison was definitely not talking about market research (pretty sure that can be stated as a fact), he knew what opportunity looked like. He was very familiar with not waiting until opportunity knocked, but instead busting down its door.if we are simply waiting for a smooth, easy opportunity to present itself, I know that we will miss out on so much–so much that we will never know what could have been.

Mud Season: Waiting, Waiting, Waiting

Right now Colorado is in what we call Mud Season. It’s the period in the mountains where many summer activities can’t be done because it’s getting cold, wet and muddy but winter activities haven’t quite started (like skiing because there isn’t enough snow yet!).

There’s a few month period where there is this lull. A lot of mountain town business owners take this time to close shop, go on vacation, do renovations, or just limit overhead costs because there just isn’t business.

I usually hit the mountains hard in both summer and winter with hiking, camping, backpacking, skiing, etc. I have come to enjoy mud season because it gives me a chance to breath and take in weekends without rushing to the mountains. Though I love the mountains, summer and winter are busy seasons where I want to take advantage of every free and sunny day to go adventure and explore. This makes the spring and fall mud seasons necessary to slow down, recouperate and get prepared for the next season of adventures.

These busy and lull periods make me think of business. There are busy seasons and slower ones. Christmas and the weird month of quiet. I’m sure as you all know, those lull months are essential to take on the next busy season. To step back and assess, to try new ideas or products, to refine the next marketing push.

Online communities are a great way to take advantage of these periods to the fullest in order to iteratively refine concepts, to prep and to finalize. Sometimes too, in these periods it may seem that it’s not worth it to do a massive research project on some small questions but with the iterative approach and affordability of communities, smaller questions can get the consumer feedback needed to be confident about decisions.

Consider utilizing this period before the next busy season productively. And consider how productive use of this time can help you be more prepared as the seasons continually change. Just as I’m using Mud Season to recover and prep, this could be the Mud Season for your business!

Check out our communities page for more information on how they work and how they may be right for you!

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