Tag Archives: innovation

Anatomy of An Insight: +46 771 793 336

swedish number

Insight: When thinking about travelling to other country, you don´t necessarily know how the people are like. What if you could talk to the people before you are booking your holiday? In the spirit of being the first country in the world to ban censorship Sweden enables you to have unfiltered conversations with swedes, just because they can.

That number above works, but it is regarded as international call so you might need to pay for the privilege. Thus far there have been already over 150k calls and callers from 182 countries. As a Finn, cannot say anything else but Swedes beat us again (luckily we were better in ice hockey this year).

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Bots and The Rise of Conversational Commerce

Messaging is the new browser and bots are the websites.
Mike Roberts, Kik Head of Messaging and Bot Experience

Bots have been all the rage last weeks. Whether it has been the NSFW Microsoft bot (not only racist, but also encouraging pot smoking in front of cops) or the ability to build chatbots on top of FB messengers.

Why sudden interest in bots?

They are not really a new phenomenon. Eliza was already created in 60s (test it here) and Siri has also been around for a while (test it in your phone). The main reason for the chatbots to gain importance especially now is because of the changed digital landscape. For majority of users, messenger is their digital starting point. Users don´t want to use messaging over Internet, they want to access their Internet to from their messenger. Therefore ability to help, serve and sell to users within messenger is paramount. Short text message (or emoji) is the default way of communicating, should it be also the way to communicate with the brands?

“Conversational commerce is about delivering convenience, personalization, and decision support while people are on the go, with only partial attention to spare.” 
Chris Messina

We are still having long way for the bot economy and below are the core things to fix before chatbots will evolve from novelty to actual user behavior:

1. The bots need to understand normal talk
“They aren’t taking natural language; they are taking menu names,”
Bruce Wilcox,the author of Rose, the winner of the most recent Loebner annual chatbot competition.

Many of the recent Facebook bots are still quite clunky in terms of discussion. People are more casual when they are thinking that they are conversing with real person. The challenge is for the robot to be casual but at the same time providing the transactional value. Current examples have not been particularly promising as they are either pushing you products in unnatural way or trying to be funny but not providing any value:
poncho

2. The bots need to become more predictive and fast
Going back and forth with your bot to order a pizza is tedious process. Getting weather details in an hour is just ridiculous. They need to become way more intuitive to use to really rival Google for getting your fast answers. The novelty factor will wear off quickly. If bots are not able to give you solutions fast, they will not be used.

3. Bots are not a destination but a way to enhance the existing discussion
E.g. instead of going to separate weather bot, you should get the weather details when you are chatting with your friend and need that info. Mark Zuckerberg raved about bots as replacements for apps, but with the current experience, it is actually just easier to go to that weather app and get your answer. Ideal situation would be that your messenger would recognize opportunities for commercial interaction from your discussions, but how to build that experience so that it is not creepy?

We are living in the early days of conversational commerce. Using messenger for repeated purchases (like pizza delivery) seems like a no-brainer, but will people actually start browsing products within messenger and asking help from the chatbot?

That depends on the user experience. If AI behind the chatbot actually would know your taste and it would be effective and enjoyable to chat with, messenger economy could become true game changer. Opportunity and potential demand is there, but building a good recommendation engine alone is difficult not to mention that you have to add enjoyable interaction with a robot on top of that. And the core question is, will people want to interact with bots?

Time will tell.

One thing is for certain. Bots will not kill the web, but they will permanently alter it.

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Marginal Gains vs. Changing The Game

“The difference between stupid and genius is that genius has its limits”
– Albert Einstein

We have limits as humans.

Luckily we have not yet reached them in majority of things. But for example, baseball pitcher cannot throw faster than 100 MPH. Although pitcher could get stronger, his tendons and ligaments would just snap throwing it faster.

Throwing the baseball is one aspect of baseball, so that is why there will be plenty of evolution in the baseball. Scientists have calculated that even in other sports the pace of development has slowed down and we are approaching the limits. Actually in some sports like long jump we are getting worse.

Being an optimist, I take there is a still lot to improve for us in humans: whether in sports or in life in general (I don´t know why anyone would make a separation between those two). These developments will happen by either tweaking the small details or reshaping the big picture:

 1. Aggregation of marginal gains

aggregationofmarginalgains
“The marginal gains philosophy requires you to look at every single aspect of what you do so you can try and improve it. It looks at every aspect of performance, and tries to improve each a little bit— even just a tenth of a percent . If you find a training technique that makes an athlete that tiny bit stronger , it alone might not have a huge effect on a race. But if you can stack those very small improvements on one another, finding a bit in tires and a bit in the wheels and a bit on the track surface and a bit in nutrition supplements— well, soon those marginal gains begin to add up to big gaps between you and your competition.”
Dave Brailsford on aggregation of marginal gains

Dave Brailsford started as the general manager for Team Sky (Great Britain´s professional cycling team) in 2010. He had the concept laid down in the quote above: if you improve every area related to cycling by just a little bit (most commonly is used 1 percent), then those small gains would eventually add up to bigger improvement. These improvements ranged from the obvious (training, nutrition) to more surprising (every cyclist had their own pillows when they are travelling). The results were outstanding. Brailsford was wrong in believing that Team Sky could win Tour De France in five years. They did it in three.

This works when the competitive field is already mature. Cycling itself is quite established sports, so there is not necessary that much innovation (doping excluded) to be done.

The difference nowadays between agencies is not in the actual ideas, but in the craft. Similar ideas have gotten totally different reception in marketplace and also in award shows. When we essentially are doing the same things, the difference comes in small details.

Has our industry then just become minor improvements and tweaking in quite predictable playing field?
Not necessarily.

2. Disruptive leaps

Disruptive thinking has radically altered the sports. Quite often the change is driven by technology, but sometimes it is also about the different way to approach the challenge in sports.

a) Technology disruption
golfevolution
“I think the players, I put in the book for example that we should go back to wood rackets, probably they laughed at me, I’m a dinosaur, but I think that you see these great players, have even more variety and you see more strategy, there’d be more subtlety.”
John McEnroe (last player to win major tournament with wooden racket)

Technology has played huge role in certain sports, especially in golf driving distance. We are not talking about marginal gains in here; these technologies have truly revolutionized the sports.

Internet has changed the whole ball game in our industry. Either you have digital capabilities, or you are like a guy trying to play with wooden racquet in tennis court. Not only you look stupid, you will also certainly lose.

b) Approach disruption
vstyle
I adapted an antiquated style and modernized it to something that was efficient. I didn’t know anyone else in the world would be able to use it and I never imagined it would revolutionize the event.
Dick Fosbury (inventor of Fosbury Flop)

Not always you need a technological breakthrough to change the game. V-style jump in ski-jump or Fosbury flop in high jump are examples when smart individuals outsmarted the competition. They looked the problem from a different angle and found a totally new and more effective way to solve it.

Currently every agency is jumping with the old style, where the room for innovation is limited. When the playing field is the same for everyone, the only way you can win is to search for marginal gains. I truly believe that we could approach our business truly differently and take the whole agency business model to the new heights. It is time to rethink the whole jump.

(Full disclosure: These sports anecdotes were mostly lifted from the great book I just read. The book is done by Mark Mucclusky and is called “Faster, Higher, Stronger. Highly recommended reading)

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Illusion of Innovation

allblacks

Our industry nowadays is obsessed about creating something “new”. We are creating stunts instead of establishing icons.

I was reminded by this illusion of new & shiny, when someone commented that New Zealand safety videos are getting boring. Here is the latest one featuring All Blacks as Men In Black:

The reason was that they are nothing new and they did All Blacks video “already” four years before. Not to mention they have done funny safety videos for years:

Hobbit

Betty White

Safety Safari

That comment does not really make any sense.

Firstly, the insight behind those safety videos is really solid. No one watches safety videos, because no one really cares (until it is too late) and usually they are also utterly boring. The idea was just to make those formerly boring videos funny. And that is working really well. Majority of those safety videos are getting millions of views, which is quite a lot of more than your brand´s latest viral video.

Secondly Air New Zealand has kept on innovating within its formula. They target to different target audiences (old, young) and their passion points (Tolkien, sports, weirdness). They have turned a necessary evil into a marketing vehicle and if they are smart, they keep on doing it for the years to come. Also they are really showing these safety videos on flights, so on top of the YouTube views, they are actual a beneficial asset for the firm. That is quite a lot more than you can say about your latest “innovation” project, which might get a mention in PSFK if you were lucky.

In our desperate chase of stunts, we have totally neglected building of formulas. When you have a winning formula for ad, the steps for the success are simple:

  1. If you find something that works, try to replicate it.
  2. If it still works, replicate it even more.
  3. Refresh and innovate but within the formula. No need to think outside the box, if you can rethink the box.
  4. Repeat as long as your audience gets truly bored with it.

The last point is the most important one. If the agency gets bored with the formula, that does not matter. Change the team. If the client gets bored with the formula, agency should fight back to retain the formula (or try to change the client). But if audience gets bored to the formula, change it and fast. It does not matter if everyone in the boardroom likes it, if it does not resonate with the real people. Usually the challenge is opposite though. Because of the cyclical nature of ad industry, we won´t allow things to grow and instead jump over to new things without any sense of direction. Creating iconic ads takes time and too often brands don´t let proven formulas to flourish to iconic ad series.

Finnish coffee brand Paulig Juhla Mokka (The Party Mocca) has been running the same ad concept from the year 1979. It shows artisan honing his craft and then establishes the parallel of the same dedication being applied to their brand. Approach is simple, recognizable and still working.

If it isn’t broken, why fix it?

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Hip-Hop Innovation & About Being The First Magpie

“Good artists copy, great artists steal”
– Pablo Picasso

There was an interesting research lately about musical patterns in US pop charts from 1960 to 2010. One of the most headline-catching “findings” of the study was that the Beatles was not really that innovative, but was merely channeling existing patterns in charts. Contrary to hip-hop, of whom the researchers put to pedestal as the most important music revolution in charts.

“There’s three of us but we’re not the Beatles”
– Run DMC (King Of Rock)

Which sounds about right: the evolution of music has been a series of artists, intentionally and not, building on each other.

“Elvis was a hero to most
But he never meant sh*t to me you see
Straight up racist that sucker was
Simple and plain
Mother f*ck him and John Wayne”
– Chuck D (Fight The Power)

As a life-long hip-hop fan, it naturally tickles my fancy that the research highlights hiphop as one of the most revolutionary turning points in music charts. Hip-hop is the evolution of music. Through sampling you can turn every musical genre to a potential hip-hop song. Rapping enabled you to have much more message and words in one song as you are not confined by traditional song structure and need to have catchy chorus. You also do not necessarily need to be able to sing or play instrument to make hiphop (little bit similar as in punk). Hip-hop serves as the blueprint on how the innovation should work:

  • Use, alter, remix, combine existing material. Other man´s five-second-horn stab is other man´s full song.
  • Rethink the traditional form. Rapping is a closer to preaching than singing. With the abandonment of the traditional harmony and music conventions you free up more time to deliver your message
  • Democratize the tools. The more inclusive are the tools, the more opportunities there are for new interesting and surprising things to happen.

“Most decent popular music researchers would probably agree that the Beatles were not so much innovators as musical magpies – and that’s not a criticism. They, like all of us, listened to all sorts of stuff and were duly inspired”
– Mike Brocken, director of world´s first Beatles master degree (!)

There has not ever been such thing as a solitary inventor. Innovation is not about figuring stuff out in isolation. It is ability to combine existing things in new ways. It has never been about being the first. It is about being the first magpie.
Apple has not really been the first in anything, but they are the most innovative and also the most profitable company in the world.
Our obsession in coming up with something new is a quest doomed to fail. We should concentrate to listen to all sorts of stuff, be inspired and combine that existing stuff in new ways.

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Asia is Driving Innovation

Unfortunately there is still almost colonial attitude towards emerging markets in the western countries (especially US and Europe). When dealing with people who are not living and working this region, the knowledge of the development and innovation happening in here is still quite modest. Everyone recognizes the business potential, but they think that it is just some void, which can be filled with western products.

They could not be more wrong.

Micromax is biggest phone manufacturer in India.

Xiaomi is the world´s third biggest phone manufacturer and China´s biggest.

Alibaba is worth more than Amazon and Ebay combined.

There are two prevalent myths, which are just wrong. Other is that all the Asian brands are just copying western brands and doing it cheaper. Other is that their whole success is based on the big local markets. These myths are not the whole picture:

1. Asian brands are not just cheap copycats.

Micromax has cheap phones that is true. They also have a solar powered phone. I think that is quite cool. Xiaomi admittedly copies Apple with pride, but it has also totally disrupted the way to sell the phones. Innovation takes different forms in the Asia that is certain, but identifying all the brands as either copycats or cost cutters is dangerous simplification. Price is a big issue in all the markets and many Asian tech innovations have been able to do things more cheaply which is appreciated also by western consumers.

2. They are not popular because they are local, but because they understand local consumer.

One of the main push for Line & WeChat for their popularity, was the addition of stickers. As the script language is slower to type with your mobile, the emojis on steroids enable you to communicate faster and convey more emotion. Facebook messenger has definitely taken some cues from WeChat and Line in its position. Flipkart & Alibaba have understood the delivery dynamics on their respective countries better than Amazon and therefore are now kicking Amazon´s ass.

No matter where you are, you should have eye on Asia. Not only because the region is growing, but also because the next big innovation is coming from (around) here.

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Much Ado About Meerkat

“Those sorts of consumer shifts used to take years or decades, but now they can happen in months or weeks or days, and we’re becoming accustomed to that idea”
Ian Bogost, game designer

Have you heard about Meerkat?

Don´t worry, you might not even need to.

The hype cycle of new apps gets faster at every moment. I heard about Meerkat couple of weeks ago, this week it has been all the talk of the SXSW town and now it has already been declared dead.

Meerkat is essentially live-streaming app, which used heavily the social graph of Twitter and allowed you to connect to your Twitter connetions in Meerkat. Twitter has already blocked this fun, in conjuction of buying similar app called Periscope. Hence, Meerkat suffered a blow and in the world of tech news hyper babble that blow is naturally deadly.

I was not excited about Meerkat, when I heard about it. I didn´t and don´t recognize the novelty or appeal in the app. Opportunity to livestream is nothing new. When I was working in MySpace, we collaborated with Bambuser, which pretty much was Meerkat with MySpace-era user experience. There are currently many streaming apps available, like the one Twitter just acquired.

So nothing new under the sun, been there done that.

After that comment I can declare that I have officially become an old fart. A person who thinks he has seen anything in his life and can´t just wait to tell that “we tried it already in 2008 and it didn´t work then”. Old farts are the biggest obstacles of any innovation, because the old farts have seen it all. They have also innovated it all. Unfortunately, those innovations have happened only in their heads.

That horrible vision made me think Meerkat again.

The idea can fail for many reasons, but always the reason is not that the idea is bad. iPad was not the first tablet. Facebook was not the first social network. Idea can fail in so many phases, that you cannot really judge the initial idea. Ideas are not unique, executed ideas can be. Technology improves so fast, that the ability to do user-friendly and enticing live-streaming app is totally different than couple of years ago. Maybe 2015 is just the right time to launch live-streaming app. Executing idea is also just one thing, how do you market it and make it sexy is the other thing. Meerkat has been at least way more effective with their PR and hype machine than their competitors.

My opposition against Meerkat is that I do not see live streaming behavior taking off. To be honest, I did not see that Snapchat would evolve to be a legit app beyond teens sending their nude photos to strangers. I can also admit that I was wrong. Although it is easier to latch onto existing behavior, technology can also create new behavior. That we are glued into our smartphones is quite new behavior in history of human race. I don´t think that no one predicted exactly that to happen.

We are obsessed with new.

Meerkat has had disproportionate amount of hype, because media wants a new social media phenomenon. Old farts criticize it, because it is not new enough. Somewhere between the overhype of media (and tech hipsters in SXSW) and underhype of old farts is the truth. Which is: essentially no one really knows what will happen with Meerkat. But it is interesting to see.

You cannot ever evaluate the success of technology when it is hyped and brand new. The true stress test is when technology has become old and boring. That is when they start to make business sense.

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Why Apple Watch Is Crucial For The Future of Apple?


“Premium branded phones are the culmination of decades of research in wireless technology, computing, materials, and design. Shitphones are the culmination of decades of research in wireless technology, computing, materials, and designminus a year or two.”
John Hermann-Shitphone A Love Story

After Apple doing the best quarter ever (for any company), it does not really seem that company is in trouble. However if you investigate the Apple revenue breakdown, there are some things to watch out for. iPhone contributes to almost 70% of Apple´s revenue. iPad (which is declining) is only 17% of iPhone sales and Mac 13%. Services contribute to 0.6% to Apple´s revenue.

Launching the phablet-sized iPhone 6 was brilliant business move in China. The sales soared over 70% in Greater China region.

1.Smartphones will be commoditized
Xiaomi is a great example of this: the phone works ok, but sells in aggressively lower price (thus low margin). Like John Hermann wrote, many technology brands are in situation where “genuine novelty rapidly reduced to thankless anonymity” Apple is more secure than other premium phone brands, as it is guarded with its lock-in ecosystem, but nothing in this world lasts forever.

2. Smartphones will eventually be no longer status symbols
When I got my first mobile phone at the tender age of 12, I was the king of hill in schoolyard. First iPhone was a conversation topic for weeks. New bigger-screen iPhone was a topic for a short question around “does it bend” and that was it. iPhone has already been around eight years, mobile phones even longer, it is getting harder and harder to excite the audience. Same will apply to China, which currently brings huge parts of Apple revenues. Technology status symbols are fickle as the status comes from constant innovation.

3. iPhone eats the other parts of Apple ecosystem
Who normal person needs home computer any more? As our life has become more dominantly mobile, the need for laptop has radically decreased. iPad was the first substitute for your home laptor. At the same time iPhone 6 is killing it, iPad sales have dropped 20%. That is not necessarily worrying; maybe iPad was transition product for something else (such as the bigger mobile). Although you are committed to single device, the previous Apple ecosystem with multiple devices working seamlessly acted as a bigger barrier to switch. Not to mention that the former clue to that ecosystem iTunes does not really do anything at the moment. Streaming services have pretty much killed that business and what will become from Beats acquisition is yet unknown.

This brings us to the watch. Apple Watch is hugely important for Apple because of the following reasons:

1. Opportunity to highlight premium innovation
Apple is a premium technology brand so it needs to be constantly innovating. The recent innovations in mobile phones have been tepid at best (making your phone big require more innovation for jeans makers). Apple watch is an opportunity to showcase their innovation, which entitles them to ask premium price.

2. New behavior
Apple Watch is also an opportunity to teach a new behavior for consumers. If any brand can do that, Apple can. Using iTunes, downloading apps or using iPad were new behaviors for the audience. Jury is still out, have these behaviors become permanent (app downloading seems to still go strong).

3. Stronger lock-in to ecosystem
iPhone is currently the crown jewel for Apple. As Apple Watch requires iPhone to work properly, it is great fit to Apple ecosystem and will increase the time spent on it.

4. Bragging rights
Apple Watch will spark much more lunch hour chatter than previous iPhone models combined. It remains to be seen, do you appear cool or douche when dabbling with your watch.

Apple Watch can be success or not (we will now more when it hits the store April 24th). It is risk because it involves new behavior and wearables have not yet been that succesful. However it is necessary risk for Apple to stay relevant and continue charging premium from their products.

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Forget the Apple Watch, This is the Only Wearable that Truly Matters…

Stop jacking off, start jacking on…
wankband
Although I have been an early advocate for wearable tech, some of the recent developments in wearables have been cringe-worthy at their best. While waiting for the Apple watch, the wearable space has been disappointing. Until now…

Enter the Wankband.

As we all know, the main developments in Internet technology have been driven by porn industry. Therefore it is only opportunity, that Pornhub should take the role to be the lighting beacon in the future of wearables with their “Wankband”. The idea is simple: wankband creates power when you love yourself (move the band in up & down motion) and then kinetic charger stores the “dirty energy” which you can use for example to charge your phone.

Although I am quite skeptical that this product will ever reach the store shelves, Wankband still embodies the five success requirements that majority of current wearables are missing at the moment:

1. Simple (Anyone can do the up & down movement)
2. Useful (Your phone is always running out of the battery, isn´t it?)
3. Instant gratification (Although you don´t necessarily charge the full battery, the journey to create “dirty energy” is satisfying)
4. Based on existing behavior (Although no one admits it)
5. Well-branded (Catchy name, good-looking site, mentions in PSFK)

The copywriter for the website and the video deserves extra credit as well with great puns.

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5 Ways to Make Your YouTube Pre-Rolls Kick Ass

Sometimes media is the message.

Lately there has been one media, which has had a sudden surge of messages: both skippable and non-skippable.

YouTube pre-rolls.

Despite annoying the hell out of users and not really making money, brand advertisers love YouTube pre-rolls. They are the new TV ads. Unfortunately that familiarity often translates to laziness. When there is lack of understanding of digital possibilities, YouTube pre-roll seems like a silver bullet. It feels easy, cosy and ticks all the right boxes (visual storytelling, digital, reach, etc.)

1. Don´t use your TV ads as a pre-roll.
There is an exception to this rule, though. If you have done genuinely funny, entertaining and effective TV ad, which works also in digital format and drives the message home in the first 5 seconds you can skip this part.
Yep, I thought so.
Although it feels tempting and easy solution, dumping your TV ad to YouTube hardly cuts the mustard.
Majority of TV ads are 30 seconds. The media buying behavior is the main reason for the duration. 30 seconds is not magical duration to tell a story. Especially in YouTube, where people watch content ranging from fraction of seconds to multiple hours.
TV ads are more passive format, as you cannot skip them as reaching for the remote is more tasking than moving your cursor on screen. You can be more boring and long-winded in TV ads and still make them work. You don´t have that luxury with YouTube pre-rolls. At its most minimum level, at least make YouTube edit of that TV ad.

2. Understand why people are watching YouTube videos
When you buy that pre-roll, you are, by default, annoying users. They want to watch some idiot eating Naga Morich, not hear about your latest anti-dandruft shampoo. You are not engaging with audience, you are interrupting them. So embrace that fact. Little contextual acknowledgement (Burger King Anti Pre-Roll) or even reward for watching the whole video (EAT: Don´t Skip Your Breakfast) will go a long way.

3. People will likely skip your ad. Make those 5 seconds count.
Depending on the source, over 94% or as little as 70% skip the pre-rolls. Nevertheless of the actual number, you can safely assume that your pre-roll is more likely to be skipped than seen or shared.
Therefore the most important part of a good story is the beginning. You have to catch the attention immediately. Like saying that you electrocute a dog if you skip the ad:

Even after this threat, only 26% watched the video in its full glory. Either there are more latent dog-haters around or people just skip the ads based on the habit. Hardest task is to make people stay and watch the first 5 seconds. After that the consumer is already committed to your content and can just hang on:

4. Don´t Sweat The Length (but make it as short as possible)
Generally non-skippable YouTube ads should be shorter than that and skippable ones could even be significantly longer. So take your time as long as your start is hard-hitting. After first five seconds everything is easier.
Only caveat is that it might be quite overkill to force user to watch 30s pre-roll when she is watching 10s video. Smart marketer would have lots of different versions of the YouTube pre-roll to suit different context (like Burger King Pre-Roll) or different lengths. The following ad from Volkswagen would work brilliantly with shorter-form video:

Doing multiple versions is more expensive from production perspective, but increased investment would also result in increased effectiveness.

 5. If you don´t have anything interesting to say or show, you are not interesting
YouTube pre-roll has certain limitations and opportunities, which are good to keep in mind. At the end of the day, it is still about good marketing communications. Great story is a great story whether it is 5 seconds or 5 hours. And on the other hand: If it looks like shit and smells like shit, you don´t need to really taste it to verify that it is shit.
If you are doing the latter, you should be ashamed of yourself. No matter what the medium. And if you are being clever and having fun with the medium you can actually expand the interest from 5 seconds to 1 minute:

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