Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda: What I wish iPad could be.

Posted: January 29th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Thoughts On... | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Image from Apple website

My good friend Tim Cascio wrote a blog post entitled: Apple iSlate Roadmap: Game-Changing Features for Version 1.0 and Beyond and asked me to comment on what I imagine a game-changing iPad should look like.  Here was my response:

>> I was curious about what Apple would indeed release, but I had my doubts about what they would actually put into this new device. I concluded we needed a mini-tablet a couple years ago when I first started thinking about the need for a mid-tier device between the mobile phone and the laptop.  Since then we””ve had emerge Netbooks and also eReaders. These two alternatives have really risen the bar and made it difficult for how a mini-tablet or ”iPad” could be a game changer.

After the announcement yesterday, I”ve been reading a lot of reviews about the device.  I found this particular critique along the lines of my own opinions about the iPad: 10 Reasons Why you should NOT Buy Apple iPad

For me, what I””m looking for is a simple yet robust device that allows me to have a light, flexible, and versatile window into all my connectivity needs.

Building on Tim”s list, here is my brief list of what would make me feel it is a game-changer:

1) Voice activation, Voice commands, & Voice type + recording: When I think of a touch screen device, a REAL one, I don”t think the proper interface is typing on a screen. I think it is awkward and inefficient.  A real game-changer would be get rid of the mouse, get rid of qwerty, and change the way we input information. Of course, there can always be a virtual keyboard when needed, or when voice is not appropriate (like in a meeting), but, a 9-inch screen should not be accessed by thumbs, and is really uncomfortable for efficient typing.

2) Multi-tasking: I think this is imperatively essential. Not that it has to be the same kind of OS and platform that we are used to in a netbook/laptop, but, some other form of convenient multi-tasking is extremely crucial.

3) Constant, continuous connectivity awareness: A real tablet should be constantly aware of its surroundings, automatically connecting you to the fastest, most stable, and free combinations of wi-fi, 3G & bluetooth devices around you.  This thing should make it seamless and simple for you not only reach out to the net and external information, but should also simultaneously enable you to pull information in from other devices (pictures, media files from your mobile phone or video/content saved on your computer or other storage, and ofcourse the internet).  This awareness should extend to things like credit-cards, all kinds of magnetic strips, and most importantly RFIDs.

4) An amalgamation of a bright OLED screen and eInk screen.  I might be dreaming at the moment, but you better believe that someday soon someone will figure out how to make both technologies available in one device.  Where you can change easily from a touch screen to an eInk screen. That would really be a game changer.

5) Really good graphics.  All I really want is for this thing to be an awesome viewing apparatus.  I want it to have enough processing power to show me things the way things should be seen. Maybe in the future with augmented reality and/or 3D technology. I don”t need it to have the kind of processing power to run complex gaming or heavy computing calculations.  I would expect all the heavy heavy computing lifting will be done through cloud-computing.  I would want this thing to be simple, light and be my window into where the real activity is going on: on the internet.

Thats really all I want. I don”t need it to have every knick-knack out there. Even a camera may not be that necessary for this thing. For me this should be my central nexus/hub to pull in all my disparate information from my disparate devices and formulate the best window for my information.  Thats it.


Youth Marketing: China Youth are calling these brands ””Tu”” (Not Cool). Why?

Posted: November 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Thoughts On... | 8 Comments »

Recently some of the younger people in my company were talking about brands they buy.  No surprise there. But then their conversation led to talking about which Brands they did not buy and why.  They used the Chinese word “Tu” to described these undesirable brands — ”Tu” a Chinese word often used to describe a country bumpkin, an old-timer who is behind in the times, or just something a little low-brow or crass.

I asked these brand-savvy Chinese colleagues to list for me the brands they could think of that fit their description of ”Tu”.  Here is what they came up with:

brandomega_boutique_moscowRado_logoLONGINES-LOGO1bmw_logomercedes-benz_logo_2643hyundai_logoo_lv_logoGucci_Logoburberry-prorsum-logo-300x263christian_dior_logoguess logoCoach_logoCROCODILE_logolacoste-logobrandLEVISy-3_logobrand-120090901_jack-jones-logock_logomng_mango_logozara_logoetamKappaswarovski-logo

Now this list is in no way compiled by any scientific method, nor is it complete, and perhaps there are some brands that wouldn”t be included by all youths of the same generation.  But it is just one example by some youth in China of  brands they call “Tu”. Brands that are still popular with other (older) generations.

There are two reasons why I can see this happening:

1) First mover luxury brands that gain a bad reputation for being first movers in a developing country

This almost seems counter-intuitive, as we have been taught that first-mover advantage typically means domination of the marketplace, which all things being equal, is usually true.  But things aren”t equal.  First-mover brands can easily fall out of favour with very little brand equity given to being first in market.

Some people would guess that this generation”s distain for these brands may come from a reaction to differentiate, reject or rebel against the brands that are identified with their parents.  This phenomenon is seen time and again in developed countries like America.  However, this is mainly not the case in China.  As I have learned from Mary Bergstrom, a China Youth expert, most kids today help their parents select the brands that they buy.  Household consumption is a concertive effort.

Then if it is not an act of rebellion to their parental generation, what then? Discussing with my young colleagues, I get the sense this phenomenon is more a reaction to something I call ”New-Money Syndrome”: As experienced in rapidly developing countries, individuals & families instantly finding themselves wealthy often-times try to ”buy” status and taste, as an expression of their wealth and accomplishments.  The over-extension/abuse of this action is what I call ”New-Money Syndrome”.  The First-Mover brands came into China at the exact time to become the object of desire, the love affair of the ”First-Monied” generation and became the hallmark brands associated with ”New-Money Syndrome”. We””ve all seen this syndrome in the flesh; people dressed head to toe in brand logos for the sake of the brands and less attention paid to how the clothing matches. Today”s China and today”s Youth have grown up in a world where the ”New-Money Syndrome” has been an ever-present reality for a long time.  Now, these young Chinese consumers are more sophisticated, needing individuality while still buying brands for their quality, but assigning brand value a new meaning, and using brands to reach different objectives.

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So did First-Mover Brands make the wrong decision entering China early because they did not foresee the negative reaction to the current stigma of being the ”New-Money Syndrome” brand? Is it better to delay market-entry to be a brand that stands with the second wave of reactionary, ”value”-driven consumer generation?

Having thought through these questions, I would answer for myself No, it is still better to be the first-mover brand in a developing marketplace. Here””s why:

a) First-Mover Brands get all the revenue from the ”First-Monied” generation b) First-Mover Brands still have perceived value within the reactionary generation c) Branding is a fluid thing, brands disdained today can be turned around and loved tomorrow.  There is always the next generation counter-reacting against the current reactionary generation.

Here is the second reason why I believe brands are being called ”Tu” by the current Youth in China:

2) ”Tu” Brands entered into China simply trying to replicate what worked in other countries, without localizing to the norms and intricacies of the Chinese market. This strategy is now met with negative reactions from a generation that demands localization and a form of communication they appreciate.

The Chinese Youth place brands in the same realm as the rest of their constructed world: as interactive relationships. Chinese Youth treat brands as they treat the numerous ”Wang You” (Net Friends) that they have.  These Net Friends remain faceless (or have make-believe personas aka avatars), and many may never meet face to face in person.  The Chinese Youth is grounded in a blending of virtual and real relationships and conversations.  Chinese Youth perceive brands in exactly the same context and hold the same expectations: a brand must be an identity, a real relationship, a conversation.

_41774018_04_china_net_cafe_ap300img_6304img_6303373522373536Pepsi engaging Chinese Youth Gamers (Pictures from Printeresting.com, China.org.cn)

I had two very enlightening conversations recently specific to the issue of Youth Marketing. One was with Graham Brown of MobileYouth and Lisa Li of China Youthology (you can hear the conversation as an online TV or radio broadcast here and here).  The second conversation was with Mary Bergstrom of Begstrom Trends, another China Youth research specialist at Omnicom & Fudan University”s Executive Digital Marketing training course, Digital:Works.  Both Lisa Li and Mary Bergstrom on their own pointed to the important insight that China Youth were becoming much more vocal and widespread in their support for causes such as environmentalism, nationalism, and specific rights issues.  As we discussed further for elaboration, the same conclusion from Lisa Li and Mary Bergstrom was the same: the proliferation of new media and the ability to communicate simultaneously one-to-one and one-to-many has allowed China”s Youth to realize that they, as an en-mass group, have the ability to make their collective voice heard.  An example of this can be seen in the “Love China” phenomenon preceding the Olympics.  It is of profound importance that this generation of Chinese Youth feel like they have an outlet for expression, a factor that earlier Chinese generations did not enjoy.  Leaving aside the question of how and why China Youth are taking up personal causes, this observation illustrates that China Youth have an intrinsic need to be interactive with the issues and influencers around them.

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chinaheartchine-i-love-chinalove_chinaChinaPanda

This brings us back to the brand question of why some brands are perceived as ”Tu” and others not.  Brands that do not understand how to engage China”s Youth — an interactive, communicative, co-creative generation — will ultimately come across as out of touch, stale, and immobile.  Active brands must seek out the local influencers of today”s Youth generation.  Brands must take their identity and go to the topics and issues that China”s Youth are already concerned with.  Brands cannot sit and wait for China”s Youth to come to them, because China”s Youth will pass them by, on their way to those brands that are meeting the youth on their level.  Perhaps having difficulties engaging in two-way conversations is a curse of Early Entrant brands.  They were so successful marketing to the older, “First-Monied” generation — a generation that only needed direct, one-way brand statements — that these Early Entrant brands have not grasped the communication and branding demands of the new generation.  Now their brand is paying the price, and being called ”Tu” by today””s Chinese Youth generation as a result.

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Enovate

From Enovatechina.com

ChinaYouthology

From ChinaYouthology.com


The Music Industry: 7 Dying Sectors & 8 Growth Sectors

Posted: July 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Kev's Thoughts On... | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

music-industry

Artwork Credit: www.budikwan.com

As most of you know, part of my blog is dedicated to reviewing Jazz music as it is one of my passions in life.  Naturally as a business professional and entrepreneur, the restructuring and transformation of the music industry is something I monitor closely and ponder often.  As I attend music festivals and concerts, the question of commercial music’s future viability is foremost on my mind.

Music will always be an integral part of our lives, in one form or another.  The quality, creativeness, beauty, authenticity and relevancy of Music is not at risk nor now being called into question.  However, the commercial model that has supported the music ‘industry’, and the channels, players, and processes that have been in place to provide us the music we love, are all going through major flux.

To better understand where the Music industry is going, here are some generally accepted Facts & Trends:

1) Digital music is here to stay

2) Free & instantaneous sharing of music is here to stay

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3) Because of points (1) and (2), the competitive price for owning/storing/listening to recorded music in any format is fast becoming $0.00, and the general public is accepting the idea of “Freemium” as the norm.

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4) Because of point (3), the largest portion of the Music Industry’s revenue pie being reduced to zero, and as a result there is heavy consolidation as existing players try to find new avenues to monetize music.

5) Because of point (3) and as seen with recent free releases Radiohead””s ””In Rainbows”” (2) (3) (4) and Trent Reznor +NIN””s ””The Slip””, recorded music is being giving away for free.  Recorded music is now a tool of marketing to generate buzz and popularity for the artist.  It is then believed that the artist can use the popularity to leverage and commercialize other assets the music artist can profit from – entrance into film & television, merchandising, concert tickets sales, endorsements, etc.

6) There continues to be demand for ””Mainstream”” and popular music, especially in the social age groups where music & fashion plays a more critical role (between ages 12-22).  Mass broadcast media like TV and Radio will continue to remain, but music consumption will continue to hyper-fragment with ever-more new media channels bringing greater exposure to independent and niche music genres.  The idea of mainstream & popular music may wane as social groups become more complex and are less defined by the style of music the group identifies with.

What is under threat?
As the business around selling recorded music become obsolete, here are some areas that are coming under threat:

a) Album art/artists
No Albums, no album art.  While I love the tactile experience of buying whole albums, looking at the album art and reading the album material, I have to admit that these features will soon disappear.  While music artist websites will thrive and house information about the artist & music, artwork will fall by the wayside as it is not essential.  Creative photography and good Photoshop will be all that is needed.

b) Music Labels

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Contracts and relationships based on management & production of an artist”s recorded music in exchange for a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of that recorded music is not going to work anymore. Music Labels must transition to the management of other aspects of the artist””s career that has more moneymaking potential.  These opportunities will be discussed in the next section.

c) ”Superstar” producers & music/album consultants
I am not saying that music producers will become obsolete, far be it.  However, ‘Superstar’, celebrity-status producers will become exceedingly rare, simply because the economics of supporting these individuals is disappearing.  Quality music producers do wonders for a music artist, but the future payoff of being a producer is in jeopardy and will continue to fall as their income will need to be derived from something other than recorded music sales.  As the Internet is now providing more ways for collaborative producing simultaneously from around the globe, old barriers to entry for a producer that had helped to prop up producer fees – such as location and scarcity of expertise – are becoming less relevant.

d) Big-Budget Music videos

The MTV Generation was born with Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ music video.  Coincidentally, the death of the music-video-watching culture is also marked by Michael’s recent and unfortunate passing (2) (3) (4).  Big budget music videos are a feature of the past for a number of reasons: 1) There is decreasing demand and dwindling viewership for music videos.  This can be seen from the type of non-music video content that now occupies the majority of MTV’s timeslots.  Viewership is decreasing as music consumption and music discovery proliferate to different media channels. 2) As seen with ‘Superstar’ producers, there is less money in the industry to be spent on costly & lengthy video productions. 3) The use of computer graphics will increase in Music Videos as the lower-cost and broadening availability make it first choice among music artists.

e) Ultra-wealthy music artists
The last few decades have been littered with memorable celebrity-music artists who are known just as much for their flash and spending power than for their music.  Think Michael Jackson & his Neverland, U2, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney; think of a whole subculture that grew up with the idea that the only ways to become rich were by playing in the NBA or becoming a rapper.  Flashy music artists like Jay-Z, Eminem, Kanye West, Dr. Dre, 50 Cent and P. Diddy canonized such ideals of a lucrative music industry.  However, the high number of exceedingly wealthy and extravagant musical artists – star pop recording artists who made all their money from selling recorded music – will become rarer as the industry moves forward. “Artists walk in to his office, who used to make $300,000 to $500,000 a year in royalties from selling recordings. And now that’s diminished to less than $50,000 a year.”
While we will still have musical pop stars, fashion & social icons that will define subsequent generations, these people will not derive the majority of their wealth and income from their music.  Most likely they will be signed, early on, to a multi-media production company & talent agency where they will be trained, branded and promoted to the mainstream through many channels.  Disney’s Hannah Montana star, Miley Ray Cyrus, as well as the lead performers from Highschool Musical are valid examples of this emerging business model.  Certainly, being ultra wealthy by being a pure musician will no longer be a viable dream.

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f) Recording Studios
Recording sound quality is still a bottleneck, albeit a widening one. A local function, the recording studio will still be around supporting a local industry of sound recording technicians.  However, time and technology are not on their side.  As technology continues to improve and prices continue to fall at an inverse rate, the professional recording studio has pressures to eventually become obsolete.  The barriers to entry to offer professional recording services (the barriers are mostly technological and operational know-how) are all lowering.

e) Intellectual Property (ASCAP + Worldwide affiliates)

There is no area I am more concerned about than the future of Intellectual Property (IP) for music.  If the protection, management and monetization of Intellectual Property is unable to transition with the Music Industry, it will have permanent and crippling negative impacts on the industry.  By Intellectual Property I do not mean the ‘rights’ of free sharing of recorded music.  That IP has already been nullified. ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and its worldwide affiliate organizations, are responsible for finding a way to pay for the Composers, Authors and Song Writers whose contributions behind the scene are the foundation of music.  If ASCAP cannot find new ways of tracking and charging for the use of the materials it manages, in a free-sharing, digital world, being a song writer will no longer be a sustainable profession, and the music cannot go on.  What singer can sing without lyrics, or a composer? They are essential pieces to the puzzle.  Perhaps some music performers can hire an entourage of personal songwriters and composers to their staff, but how many music artists can afford that?
The other problem facing ASCAP is one of economics and Game Theory.  An over supply of poor musicians and even pooerer song writers will continue to push royalties down on existing monetizable rights.  When you consider the growing music industries of other developing countries, where there are an increasing number of non-ASCAP members, lead by non-US music creatives, the law of numbers can help you extrapolate that eventually the American-led ASCAP business model may become obsolete.

Where are the Opportunities?

a) Tour coordinators/managers/companies
So if music artists can no longer sit back and sell CDs to make money, how can they? Get up and sell some concert tickets.  People seem to forget that before the era where most of the money was made from selling records, musicians made most of their money doing performances.  Musicians would be on the road perhaps 300 days per year, doing live performances.  It is only a recent phenomenon that musicians could record an album, sit back and let them sell, and ‘choose’ if and when to go on tour.
If music artists need to return to the road, return to live concerts to make the bulk of their money, then the ancillary services like tour coordinators, tour managers, and tour companies, may have some room to grow.

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b) Media consultants, Music distribution specialists
With the rapidly diversifying new media landscape, musicians can hardly keep up.  Like all creative industries, let the talent focus on what they do best: perfecting their craft.  In this case, let musicians make music. Then let the professional marketers and agencies do the rest.  If giving away recorded music falls under the umbrella of marketing, then professional media consultants and music distribution specialists will be needed to help artists maximize their exposure to their target listeners.  This role can be an amateur individual helping out one artist, to a professional working for a large music group handling multiple music artists.  A great growth area for Music Labels.

c) Music discovery services/products
As music becomes available from many different channels, and we wean ourselves off of single-broadcast channels like Music Television and Radio, we will be overwhelmed by the depth & breadth of music variety out there.  To make sense of all the noise, we need better music discovery services/products.  A lot of companies are already trying to capture this field: Last.fm, Pandora, iTunes, to name a few of the big ones.  There are wonderful specialty services such as Musebin and NeochaNEXT Player.  Regardless how this market plays out, it is extremely lucrative on the basis of social networking, ecommerce, and advertising.

d) Individual Artist Management & Talent Agent
With ‘the business’ moving from music sales to all sorts of other revenue streams, management will be less about the management of the music and much more about the management of the talent.  This is one of the areas that Music Labels can consider moving into.  A professional talent management agency would be able to consolidate a number of functions becoming increasingly important to the success of the artist.  This can include putting together and coordinating tours, having a media management division, setting the artist up with different music producers and musicians, and helping the artist find endorsements or develop beyond a music artist.  Most importantly, a talent management agency should be consciously building its talent’s personal brand, and executing high-reach, highly effective PR campaigns.  A good talent agency will craft its artist’s image from the very beginning, consciously identifying fan bases, pinpointing locations with a high-enough concentration of fans to put on a concert, and molding the talent into an identifiable icon.  Revenue for the management agency then comes from multiple streams: management fees, a cut on endorsement deals, a percentage take on ticket sales, and rights to merchandising.

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e) Sponsorships & Endorsements
Artists will start looking more favourably on corporate sponsorships as they look elsewhere to diversify their revenue streams.  As touring increases and artist branding intensifies, the attractiveness of artist sponsorship in exchange for corporate association with the music artist will rise.  It may be a strange idea for us to imagine today, but do not be surprised if one day in the near future, it is the norm to see music artists sporting clothes and logos of their sponsors.  Just as Tiger Woods wears and uses all things Nike, so will you see the same for successful music artists.
Sponsorships will go beyond the individual artist.  We will see more festivals and tours being headlined by a corporation seeking to build brand recognition and association to a certain target group.  In these ways the music business will be able to tap into the much larger pool of Corporate PR & branding.  “Selling Out” will no longer be valid, it will just be reality for the industry.

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f) Sound Recording & Sound Editing Equipment & Services
Technology will continue to offer growth opportunities for music. As mentioned earlier, local professional sound recording studios and technicians are currently a bottleneck, but that competitive edge is fast eroding.  As technology enables cheaper, better quality sound recording & editing equipment, price & production will hit a tipping point that will render sound studios mostly obsolete.  Artist will then be able to self-record high-quality music, fully edited and produced, and disseminate the music for free as a form of marketing to gain a fan base. With simultaneously improving video recording and editing equipment, self-produced, innovative music videos will also be available for distribution.  No longer will we only have low-budget amateur music artists showing themselves to the world YouTube style, it will be a whole different experience, and a social experience at that.  Those in the business of digital sound recording & editing have a lot of potential to make huge waves in the music industry.

g) Open-source producers, Open-source artist collaboration
Mentioned above we discussed the demise of the ‘superstar’ producer.  The growth opportunity for this field is the new practice of ‘open-source’ producing and music collaboration.  These Open-Source initiatives are already underway, with projects like Kompoz, Musicollaborate, and The Net Studio.  They are effectively removing the barrier that was locality, and have released expert and best standards producing power to the entire globe.  Now a ‘superstar’ producer can be working on multiple songs for multiple artists from multiple continents.  Music artists and/or management agencies will be able to seek out, commission, and pay for, the producing of music to anyone in the world as it sees fit. I genuinely hope we get on average better music as a result.

h) “Exposure” tours/festivals
Unlike musical-genre festivals like Lollapalooza, and Jazz Festivals, or tours & concerts performed by music idols, we may expect in the future to see the rise of a third style of tour/festival, something I’d like to call an “Exposure” tour.  An Exposure tour is a show/concert featuring a medley of different bands or musical artists, each singing only a few songs each. In this way the audience gets a to hear a greater number of musicians.  Conversely, an Exposure tour allows a number of lesser-known artists, who may only have a small or medium-sized following to band together and pool their fan bases to build a large enough audience for a profitable concert.  This tour format was in fact heavily used in the 40’s through to the 60’s, and is still in use today by touring groups of yesterday’s favourite pop-stars in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia.  With tools like SNS application iLike that can track pockets of fans in far-flung cities, a shrewd tour company/talent agent could gather a number of emerging artists who share similar fan bases or music genres, and piece together an Exposure tour.  It is a great way for the artists to make some money, gain touring experience, and acquire new listeners who come to the concerts for other participating artists.

A message for music artists

Music Artists, you have to learn how to self-promote, be media savvy.  For now, try to make as much money as possible by still selling music.  Eventually though, you will be forced to give music away for free as an essential part of your marketing.  But track where listenership grows, be active in the communities that emerge around your music, and perhaps sell higher-end ‘premium’ content like music videos or even online interview/chat sessions.  Eventually, when the demand for your music is large enough, begin planning concerts and join festivals.  If lucky and with the right numbers, you can have a professional talent management company represent you, help you promote and manage your media, build your brand presence and disseminate your music.  Then focus and work hard on your music, but never forget that your revenue will likely come from a variety of different sources, so be open to trying new things!

Asia Perspective

The above Opportunities & Threats are related primarily to the North American and Popular Music markets.  In Asia, musical taste maturity, musical diversification & sophistication still need time to develop.  Media channels and the societal/cultural need to develop better national ””popular music”” still has strong and growing demand in Asia, and will therefore perpetuate the old model.  Sound recording technologies, even if/when the prices come down, will still be too high for the purchasing power of Asian music artists.  The large income disparity still being experienced in Asia will make self-recorded music lag behind North America, in quality and volume, still for some time.  But, as Asians have proven that their ability to copy foreign innovation is uncanny, I hope that Asia can follow quickly in the steps North America is taking in the new music economy.  I have a suspicion that, as a result of it’s numbers, Asia will be able to innovate new business models unreasonable or unsustainable in the North American market.

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