R[E]D – Research : Emotion : Design

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An Evolutionary Theory For Why You Love Glossy Things


People’s taste for shiny stuff might be rooted in a very basic instinct.

The evidence that people are drawn to shiny things is all around us: from the pages of lifestyle magazines to the page stock of lifestyle magazines. One logical explanation for this cultural affection is that we’ve come to associate gloss with wealth and luxury. If the story ended there, though, we wouldn’t expect very young infants to enjoy shiny things as much as they do, nor would we expect remote tribes like the Yolngu of Australia to celebrate shimmering aesthetics as much as they do. There’s clearly a bit more to glitter than gold.

Reach deep into the core emotion of the customer, propel more action than ever before.

R[E]D – Research : Emotion : Design

Recently a group of marketing scholars considered the question from an evolutionary angle. They were intrigued with some earlier research showing that “children who were presented with glossy objects licked them,” one of the scholars, Vanessa M. Patrick of the University of Houston, tells Co.Design. In that work, published several years ago, infants seven to 12 months old put their mouths to glossy plates much more than to dull ones. Children had also been seen lapping shiny toys on the ground, the way an animal might drink from a puddle.

Patrick and her fellow collaborators, from Ghent University in Belgium, wondered if there might be something more to these reports than kids just being kids. Maybe the connection between drinking and shiny design was an evolutionary artifact–a sign that our crush on glossy is rooted in a primitive desire for water as a vital resource.

So they designed a series of six experiments to test that idea. First they had to demonstrate that preference for glossy is a natural reaction rather than a learned association with the good life. That wasn’t too tough. In two simple surveys, they established that both adults (via leaflets) and four- to five-year old children (via pictures of Santa) preferred glossy to matte finishes. The kids were too young to appreciate marketing efforts connecting bling with wealth; to some degree, their preference had to be innate.


The appeal of glossy might not be entirely linked to wealth, but it might still reflect a basic enjoyment of pretty things. To study that possibility, the researchers blindfolded 46 test participants and handed them a piece of paper. Half received a glossy sheet, half a matte sheet. Participants who held the glossy sheet rated it as higher quality and more attractive than those in the matte group–even without getting a look at it.

The tests suggested there’s more to glossy than cultural connection or visual appeal. Those findings alone didn’t mean a biological urge for water played a role, but the researchers did collect some clues to that effect. In the blindfold test, for instance, participants envisioned more water when asked to imagine a landscape depicted on the page–showing a perceived link between shiny and wet. In another test, this one without blindfolds, participants rated aquatic images as glossier than desert ones, although in truth there’d been no difference.

As a final experiment, the researchers divided 126 test participants into three groups. One group ate a bunch of crackers without any water. Another ate the crackers but also drank some water. A third did neither. Afterward, each group looked at eight photographs, half on glossy paper and half on matte. All three groups preferred the glossy pictures, but the groups that had eaten crackers rated them as much more attractive. And the thirstier participants got–in other words, the greater their desire for water–the more they preferred glossy.


Taking all their findings together, the researchers argue in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology that an instinct for water may indeed play a role in fondness for glossy. “First and foremost, this paper shows that our preference for glossy might be deep-rooted and very human,” says Patrick. “It is humbling to acknowledge that despite our sophistication and progress as a species, we are still drawn to things that serve our innate needs–in this case, the need for water.”

There’s a great deal to like about this study. The researchers crafted their experiments carefully, tried to eliminate alternative explanations, and presented a theory for others scientists to explore further. At the same time, there’s a lot to question. People may associate shiny stuff with wealth, for instance, but they associate water with wealth, too. Parsing out how much of the glossy-water connection is socialized and how much might be instinctual is a great challenge that no study can hope to conquer on its own.

Beyond that, any explanation for why we prefer glossy to matte must also account for the fact that we don’t always prefer glossy to matte. Sometimes glossy interferes with readability (say, a sign that reflects bright light). Sometimes it conveys the wrong message (say, a glossy food ad that conjures up thoughts of grease). And sometimes it’s just enough already and we want something different. Evolution might drive some preferences, but preferences evolve, too.

source: fastcodesign.com
writer: Eric Jaffe

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10 Researched Rules Brand Leaders Survive By

RED leader

Branding is a process that is continually ongoing. A brand that is not flaccid cannot be created in an afternoon of decisions regarding your brand identity, messaging, logo, corporate colors, web design, and packaging. Rather, we all know that a successful brand is built from a huge number of logical decisions that grow out of powerful customer research and a brand strategy. If your goal is to own and managing a leading brand you must follow these 10 researched rules brand leaders survive by.

1. Be willing to share! Don’t hold back. People respond kindly to the most generous people so you will be rewarded by your open-sharing policy.

2. Be prepared for serious competition and your new brand strategy. Adjust to your new reality and do it with so much style everyone will think you planned it that way.

3. Be a greater listener than a talker. Brand leaders show they are more interested in learning about your customer’s needs and wants more than explaining their services. Remember, people are interested in telling their story, not necessarily listening to yours, at least not until after they’ve told theirs first.

4. Realize that you need to be a team player. Be confident and get down to business.

5. Use Customer Research. Show that you know and care about them.

6. Be a friend! Always be willing to do better each day so you can help others do better. Apply this to your everyday life and it will never let you down professionally or personally.

7. Be a pursuer of big ideas and dreams. Don’t put them on your shelf to sit year after year. Try them out and see if you can make something of them. You’ll never know if you don’t try.

8. Stand out, be and industry visionary. Steve Jobs was always out in front of his competition and customers and offered something new and different. A capability of coming out with something new served Apple very well as a brand leader for years.

9. Be someone who knows the details. Be known as a person that follows through, finishes every item they start. Every single opportunity that comes your way regardless of how large or small be the one that is determined to tackles it full heartedly.

10. Don’t sit around waiting for an idea or opportunity. Instead, get up and make something happen!


source: marketcues.com

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Top New Year’s Resolutions for Brands

2014  branding resolution being more human

Resolutions abound this time of year. Do a quick Google search for “New Year’s Resolution” and you’ll find lists upon lists packed full with headlines like, “Top Ten Resolutions For Women on the Run,” “7 New Year Resolutions That Take 5 Seconds or Less!” or, my personal favorite, the “New Years Resolution Generator.”

(I used the generator…apparently this year I will “get jiggy wit it.” For fun, try it here.)

New Year’s resolutions are not a modern invention. The Babylonians celebrated the New Year with a 12-day festival called Akitu that marked the Spring harvest yield (in March, not January). During Akitu, special rituals that affirmed humanity’s covenant (resolutions) with the gods were performed. The Romans brought in the New Year with public ceremonies, oath-taking and temple sacrifices to honor the gods and goddesses. Rome originally celebrated this during March, much like Babylon, to honor Mars, the god of war. As Romans became less war-like, they switched from March to January to honor Janus, a god of home and hearth.

Psychologically, humans are hardwired to recognize new beginnings that offer us a fresh start and clean slate. A New Year’s resolution gives us a natural way to prepare for change and to fire up for the shifts we intend to make.

This applies not only on an individual level, but on a collective level as well. Collectively, it is important and healthy for us to recognize new beginnings and take advantage of a fresh start and clean slate. That’s why I believe it’s important for brands to make New Year’s resolutions.

(**One caveat: Given the fact that most New Year’s resolutions fail, I urge you to think of a resolution as a realistic, intention-driven aim that defines the direction in which you are choosing to move. There is no set timeline, due date or deadline to achieve, but rather a focus to introduce and connect with.)

So, in this year of the horse, here are some starting points for your brand’s New Year’s resolution:

1. Resolve To Get Outside of Your Building.
Planning, strategizing, devising, outlining, meeting, scheming and calculating are probably the majority of your activities as a steward of your brand. But they uniquely keep you trapped inside your building and worse, take you away from physical proximity to the people that matter the most – your customers.

That’s why I say, get outside of your building, get outside of your meetings, planning, and board rooms and get in contact with customers. Yes, that actually means interacting in a relational way with your audience. This isn’t a promotional tool. It isn’t a PR stunt. It isn’t a trade show. In fact, it isn’t about you at all! It’s about them. Be quiet, listen, relate, learn and observe. For 2014, brands that focus on getting outside of their buildings and in contact with their customers will thrive.

2. Resolve To Be More Human.
At the heart of your brand is a living, breathing relationship that will evolve as you grow, pivot and evolve. Your brand has to have the flexibility to grow with you. Otherwise it becomes obsolete. The answer isn’t to simply begin a new process, wholesale, once again. Instead, the answer lies in how you approach your brand from the start.

Become more human. Relate in a humanly way. Shirk the process and embrace the humanity within your brand. For 2014, brands that focus on becoming more human will thrive.

3. Resolve To Create More Dynamic Artifacts.
Artifacts are anything that “live” in the real world and point back to the relationship you share with your audience. Most artifacts are static, meaning, they are one-dimensional, immobile and passive expressions of your brand. Logos, color schemes, billboards and TV commercials are static. Stop putting so much trust in your static artifacts! The challenge is to create dynamic artifacts.

Dynamic artifacts are interactive, activating and magnetic expressions of your brand that invite your customers to join in rather than observe. And the best dynamic artifacts take into account all five of our senses. Don’t worry about the longevity of these artifacts, worry about the remarkability of them. What does a dynamic expression of your brand that engages all five human senses look like? I don’t know, but I’m willing to bet it’d be pretty amazing. For 2014, brands that focus on creating remarkable, dynamic artifacts will thrive.

4. Resolve To Be Delightful, Not Disruptive.
Being disruptive isn’t a strategy. In fact, it’s an anti-strategy. Shock and awe brands fail to sustain their connection with real people because people don’t connect with disruption, they connect with delight. Think about it. Do you want to be disrupted by a brand? Or would you rather be delighted? Which one of the “d” words draws you in?

Delight is about finding spaces beyond your brand promise to create joy and surprise. The point is to define the moment of delight and align your brand to release it to your audience. For 2014, brands that focus on fostering delight, not disruption, will thrive.

5. Resolve To Free Your Story.
Stories are powerful. They have the power to engage, delight and relate to your audience in a way that creates traction in the marketplace. Yet, we often segment out our story to a narrow aspect of our overall brand experience. This is a big mistake. Your story is the single most powerful and distinguishing asset you own. Stop burying your story in mission statements, brand promises, messaging matrixes and vision statements.

Get intimately in touch with your story. Start with the WHY, and align everything back to it. Set your story free from the confines of structure and process, and allow it room to breathe, grow and become meaningful once again. For 2014, brands that focus on freeing their story will thrive.

The Spirit of the Horse
2014 is the Year of the Horse in the Chinese Zodiac. The spirit of the horse is recognized to be our ethos – making unremitting efforts to improve oneself. It is energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able. If you are able to shift your focus to becoming more human, getting outside your building, creating dynamic artifacts, being delightful and freeing your story, 2014 is sure to be an energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent and able year.

Author Jeremiah Gardner
Original source: brandingmagazine.com

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Emotional Branding Strategy: Connecting With Your Customers Through Story

Your business succeeds or fails based on the connection that you share with your customer. Borrowing a few tricks from Hollywood will help you strengthen that connection.


Story is the secret ingredient that makes an emotional connection powerful and lasting. A show about a high-powered political “fixer” doesn’t immediately sound interesting. But a show about a fixer who finds herself at the center of the biggest political SCANDAL of the century because she’s sleeping with the president–that’s something you can’t stop watching. In my twenty years as a Hollywood story analyst, I’ve learned a few storytelling tricks you can use to add emotion to your brand and build a connection with your customer. Here are four basic building blocks of great stories you can use with your brand:

1. Trigger Point
2. Dilemma
3. Action
4. Goal

Trigger Point

Michael Hauge, author of Writing Screenplays That Sell, said that a story begins when an undeserved misfortune happens to your lead character. In other words, stories start with a problem, or trigger point. For example, in the show The Good Wife, the trigger point is when Peter, Alicia’s husband, goes to jail for his involvement in a sex and corruption scandal.

When you’re creating the story of your business, start with your customer. What will their trigger point be? What will make them want to use your service or buy your product? Then consider the story of your business came to be. What was the trigger point that provided the inspiration for the company?

trigger points

For some entrepreneurs, the two triggers will be the same–you may have experienced the same need your potential customers are facing, and created your business to solve that problem. For example, in 1970 Tom and Kate Chappell had a hard time finding wholesome, natural personal care products for their family. That trigger point in the story of how they came to found Tom’s of Maine is the same trigger point that leads customers to buy their products. Tying your brand to this kind of personal story will help you appeal to the consumer emotionally.


In story, the dilemma is what happens after the trigger incident, the moment when the central character gets stuck between a rock and a hard place. The trigger incident happens to the character, but the dilemma sets up the moment when she makes a difficult decision that sets the plot in motion. In the FX show The Americans, the trigger incident is when a married Russian spy team, Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings, fail to get a former KGB Colonel to escape on time. This leads them into the dilemma: do they let him go or kill him?

Emotional dilemma

What dilemmas do your customers face? When Kraft developed Lunchables, they tapped into a key consumer dilemma: do I pack lunches for the kids or get them to school on time? According to Michael Moss, author of the book Salt Sugar Fat, the real marketing genius that drove Lunchables’ success was the ability to connect emotionally with both parents and kids. They told a story about not only a working parent’s stressful morning, but a kid’s boring lunchtime. Understanding their customers’ dilemmas helped them forge emotional connections by offering possible solutions to real problems.


Customer Clarity

Once you’ve created a story for your brand, you need to make sure that all your actions help advance that story and lead the customer towards achieving their goal. Don’t let your story get bogged down or take a sudden, unexpected left turn like X EXAMPLE. Dove has been very successful at connecting their brand to an emotional story about women finding confidence in their own natural beauty–which is why it was so damaging when consumers began to complain that their ads were appearing on Facebook pages that contained violent, sexist content. Every interaction with your company, whether it’s seeing an ad in an unexpected place or speaking with customer service, is part of your brand’s story. When your actions align with the customer’s goal, you get results: you strengthen your connection with the customer and improve your chances of repeat business.


In story, the resolution of a plot links back to the opening dilemma because the goal is the answer to the initial problem. In the story of your brand, you want the consumer to feel that by hiring you or buying your project, they’ll achieve their goal. Clarifying this intent in your messaging and your actions will help you connect with your consumer.

Customer Clarity

Staples understood this when they introduced their “That was easy” marketing campaign. They identified a problem their customers faced–shopping for office supplies is often tedious and complicated–and offered a solution. They backed up the slogan with action, revamping their stores so that the shopping experience would actually be easier. And they even created a physical button customers could push when they achieved their goals. The fact that they’ve sold millions of Easy Buttons underscores how powerfully people crave resolution–and how warmly they’ll embrace a company that helps them achieve it.

By Jen Grisanti

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Personalized products and content-led conversation will win in 2014

The global e-commerce industry is expected to generate $1.2 trillion in sales by the end of this year, driven largely by the changing shopping habits of consumers, as they increasingly browse and buy across mobile, tablet and even social networks. Despite this predicted growth, 2014 will not be a year for retailers to rest on their laurels.

human-head-with social-network-icons

Retailers will have access to more information about their customers’ preferences and shopping habits than ever before and retailers must take steps to better understand the purchase journey. This insight will give retailers the understanding they need to develop relevant content and personalize deals, and ultimately help to generate more sales. Shoppers are looking for a richer, more personal shopping experience and retailers must reassess both how they sell and what they sell if they are to thrive.

Here are 5 top tips for those retailers wanting to stand out from the crowd next year using personalization:

1.     Content shopping will be king
The lines between entertainment and shopping are blurring further and 2014 will see more retailers offer shoppers a richer, content-led shopping experience. Driven by the media, which have become retailers in their own right to bolster dwindling revenues from advertising and subscriptions, savvy retailers are using multimedia content to make the shopping experience more engaging. Retailers recognize that shoppers are no longer satisfied by the vending machine model of the last decade; they want to be entertained and informed as they browse the web and make purchasing decisions.

2.     Social will steer retailers’ stocking decisions
Social media’s power to influence what people buy is widely recognized and in 2014 it will also influence what retailers sell. The rapid growth of social curation communities like Pinterest, where consumers curate their own collections of products that they like, offers retailers access to invaluable insights in near real-time, something that traditional market research simply cannot compete with. Savvy retailers will use social shopping communities as a temperature check for popular product trends and use this insight to inform and refine stocking decisions.

3.     Omni-channel will require a single customer view
In any given day a shopper could interact with a brand on multiple devices and through multiple platforms, from mobile browsing in the morning, to lunchtime shopping on a work laptop. In 2014, a top priority for retailers will be to join-up the dots between these channels so that a more comprehensive customer profile can be developed. Insight garnered by analyzing the purchase journey of shoppers will help retailers to streamline the channels through which they sell and personalize the shopping experience, helping to boost bottom lines.

4.     Hyper targeting will take the online personalization in-store
The long-held dream of being able to target shoppers in real-time, with relevant and personalized location-based offers took a big step forward in 2013 with Apple’s launch of iBeacon, which allows precise, low-cost indoor tracking in stores. There has been much excitement about the prospect of hyper-targeting shoppers on the go and in 2014 retailers will begin to take this proposition more seriously. We expect to see a number of high profile trials of hyper-targeting technology as retailers grapple to deliver the highly personalized experience that shoppers now expect online in their high street stores.

5.     Mass customization will make products feel personal
Consumers today want something that’s unique and reflects their personality. Retailers understand this and we are seeing more companies offer personalized products, from custom engravings to the ability to select bag zip or pocket colour in advance. There is a huge opportunity for small to medium enterprises to carve out a market niche against bigger retailers, while adding value to existing products through customization. Furthermore, the concept of customization should extend beyond the product itself; retailers need to look at how they can offer a more customized shopping experiences online by using insights gathered in customer profiles.

by Shingo Murakam

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What’s the big deal with big data? Big data provides consumer research that keeps businesses abuzz


Big Data is one of the latest phenomenon to hit tech news. This is no surprise as experts in the industry are constantly abuzz about the benefits of Big Data on marketers and any business trying to get deeper insights about their consumers. Yet, for many this new idea of data collection remains a mystery.

So what’s the big deal about Big Data?

Big data is the hottest method for businesses to target their audiences, analyze their outreach, and understand how to craft the most effective marketing effort possible. For the tech world, the devices get smaller, but the data keeps getting bigger.

As we learned to incorporate targeted emotional research into each project, we see more success for our clients,  and design that is more than aesthetics or decoration. –
R[E]D – Research : Emotion : Design

Think ‘Big’ — no, seriously

It’s important to first understand exactly what Big Data is. The first thing to consider is that Big Data is made up of the three V’s: Volume, Velocity, and Variety.

Volume is the large amount of data that can be stored. Advances in technology allow us to store a lot more information into smaller amounts of space. As hard-drives get larger, and languages like Hadoopallow programmers to cram more information into smaller code, we are able to store giant data sets that are far larger than any in the past.

Velocity is the rate at which this data is collected. Rather than hand-recorded information, computers are able to constantly record online activity as it happens. This allows for rapidly expanding amounts of data to be stored. Today, computers continuously collect data at a consistent rate from anywhere at anytime.

Variety refers to the vast, diverse types of data that the computers can track. Where humans were once limited to only knowing a small set of information (the information voluntarily given by the subjects), businesses now have a much deeper look at everything a person is doing—from how long they stay on a webpage to what purchases they make online, with minimal error.

Farming social media

So how does social media play into the phenomenon of Big Data?

Social Tree

When you think about it, social media is one of the largest data farms out there. No, I’m not talking about Farmville. Through social media, people are publicly stating their opinions on products and services, checking into businesses, and providing deeper insight into every facet of their lives. This becomes a huge opportunity for businesses to collect and analyze all of these preferences. This provides a sample size of hundreds of millions of people across a handful of social networks all feeding personal data.

With a larger set of information to draw from, businesses get a stronger understanding of how consumers behave. They can analyze broader trends based on what people are doing with a higher accuracy rate because everyone is contributing unfiltered information.

This constant stream of social data allows companies to discover new, creative ways to showcase and analyze consumer behavior. The only limit is how they connect all the data together. 

Connecting big data and social

So how is this data shaping tech? The possibilities are endless.

At its most basic, companies can now effectively monitor everything said across different social networks. With this virtual omnipresence, companies can quickly respond to a customer complaint, suggest a purchase, or promote their product to their audiences.

Machine Learning allows businesses to engage with users and garner the most reach possible. By collecting heaps of data from previous posts and user activity, computers are able to analyze what is the best time to post to social networks.

Digital storytelling is also an interesting way to break down all the information in a fun and informative way. By now, majority of people have seen a compelling infograph, but some content creators are going deeper. SGI, a digital graphic and computer solutions company, made a video showing the evolving conversation around Hurricane Sandy. Through the video you can see the GPS locations of tweets regarding the hurricane as it travels across America.

The most popular (and perhaps creepiest) example of effective use of Big Data was by Target. By tracking consumer purchasing patterns and ‘likes’, Target’s predictive analytics were able to accurately determine that a teenage girl was pregnant before her family knew.

Big Data is still a bit of a mystery as there are new ways of use being developed every day. If you’re interested in diving into this new phenomenon there are different ways you can get your hands on Big Data including: collecting it yourself with low-cost programs, buying the data from database companies, or collecting it from social media monitoring suites.

Either way, don’t sleep on this new concept — it’s an invaluable asset to finding and understanding your audiences. When it comes to data, bigger is better.

by Jeff Anaya

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The Essential Marketing Insight That Ford Completely Missed In The 1970s

Today, it seems obvious that business owners should seek input from their customers. But when global marketing and research firm J.D. Power was making a name for itself, that wasn’t always or even frequently the case.


In “Power: How J.D. Power III Became the Auto Industry’s Adviser, Confessor, and Eyewitness to History,” authors Sarah Morgans and Bill Thorness revisit how the research firm rose to prominence by sticking to a very simple idea: listen to your customers.

J.D. Power discovered exactly what happens when you act on or ignore customer insights with two separate auto companies in 1975.

Ford Motor Company had just decided to try marketing a new type of vehicle — a minivan. The entirely new design would bridge the gap between the station wagon and the passenger van. To test customer reception in Los Angeles (one of three sample cities), Ford contracted J.D. Power.

Tension erupted when Ford outlined how it wanted the study conducted. The auto company planned to recruit drivers who owned large vans, large pickup trucks, or large station wagons to test the minivan. They assumed these were likely buyers of the new product — essentially defining their target market before they’d researched who that might be.

Unless you’re the actual customer, you can’t sit
around a table and come up with what they
want, think, or feel. Avoid groupthink!   – R[E]D – Research : Emotion : Design

J.D. Power founder Dave Power III disagreed. He argued that owners of large vehicles were unlikely to elect to downsize. Ford would be better served by testing its product on the general car-buying public. “I tried to object to interviewing these people,” he recalls in the book, “because we said they aren’t the ones who will be in the market for it, and never will be.”

Despite their disagreement, J.D. Power went ahead with the study Ford requested and found themselves vindicated: the car flopped with Ford’s selected demographic. Had the auto maker listened to Power, who was basing his ideas on customer research, it could have averted such a failure and executed a far more effective study.

The second moment of truth came when Subaru consulted J.D. Power about a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The model hadn’t been introduced to passenger vehicles, and Subaru’s parent company thought a four-wheel-drive station wagon wouldn’t sell in the U.S.

Subaru’s U.S. chief consulted J.D. Power, which concluded from research that the car would sell a then massive 30,000 to 40,000 units a year. Subaru took the report to their parent company and, this time, the industry listened to J.D. Power’s customer-based research. The car was given the go-ahead, and sales met J.D. Power’s forecasts in the first year.

The simple principle of listening to the customer and weighing consumer research made a significant difference for these auto companies. That principle certainly holds true today as well. Overlooking the “voice of the customer” — “VOC” as the authors term it — can be hugely problematic for any company.

“Ford missed the opportunity to be the trailblazer in a lucrative new market segment because it did not heed Dave’s call for listening to the voice of the customer (VOC) in the most effective way,” the authors write. “Subaru’s success, on the other hand, was utterly defined by acting on Dave’s insights into VOC.”

By Alison Griswold

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