Why Artificial Intelligence Will Widen the Wealth Gap

In a follow up piece, Integer’s I&S Director Jacquelyn Ethredge and team also penned a byline surrounding Artificial Intelligence and Socio-Economic Impact based on Integer’s research, appearing on The Huffington Post, AW360 and Business Intelligence.

“One of the fundamental issues AI will bring to the forefront is how different people prioritize time or money as their most valuable asset. Unsurprisingly, in discussions about AI, our data indicates that households with more money prioritize time. They, therefore, are more likely to see AI as a potential tool for saving or creating more time by delegating low-involvement decisions to a computer. Conversely, lower-income households show a higher priority on cost savings; 78% of all shoppers want AI in the future to bring them the best deals and sales. They are interested in the potential of AI to further this goal but are concerned about its ability or likelihood to deliver on this potential.”

Click on the links above to read the full article.  For more information on Integer’s AI research, visit: integer.com/artificialintelligence.

Marketing Trends 2018

It’s a natural time of the year to create plans, and to take a broader look at the factors that are likely to affect our businesses in the coming year. In this piece, we set out some of the likely marketing trends in 2018 that either will or could – and in many cases, should – fundamentally change how marketing is delivered. To this end, we have trawled the internet to see what a wide variety of marketing experts across the globe are predicting to be the most disruptive influences in the coming year.

A word of warning. Not all of the following activities are going to suit every business, and we are of course looking at some game changing opportunities that come with a high cost attached, as well as perhaps only providing marginal gains for some organisations. The most important thing to bear in mind is to look at where you are in terms of your marketing plan, and to invest in the right strategies for your business. For instance, before you do anything else, you might need to focus on your brand proposition, or on making sure your website and essential sales support tools (such as your corporate presentation, brochures, videos etc.) are up to spec. That being said, whilst this “first things first” approach is important to bear in mind, it never hurts to have an overview of the broader picture, perhaps as part of – say – a three-year marketing vision whose aim is to transform your business into a key market player by 2020.

Technological developments in marketing

As in so many fields, the overriding trend in technological developments in marketing is the increasing use of software tools to automate tasks and processes that were previously handled by people (or which never existed in the first place because it was too complex and time-consuming to do so). Thanks to the internet and its numerous digital spin-offs, marketing is now going through its own version of the mechanisation previously experienced in manufacturing. And because of the nature of the world of IT, change is happening at a much greater speed. This year, words like ‘dynamic’ and ‘agile’ are key front-of-mind motivators for forward-thinking marketers. In short, developments in marketing technology have led to a significant move forward in the holy grail of marketing – one-to-one relationships with customers at every stage in the sales cycle, from ‘target suspect’ to ‘loyal ambassador’.

Therefore, it is no exaggeration to suggest that the digital revolution has led to a transformative revolution in thinking. Not long ago, mass marketing was undertaken on the rough principle that if you broadcast a message often enough to as wide an audience as possible, some people, sometimes, were bound to respond. Marketing can now be far more targeted and personal, with a far greater chance of receiving a positive outcome – assuming that your customer/prospect data has sufficient depth and quality and that you have the processes in place to communicate appropriately at every step in the cycle (think AIDA – create awareness, establish interest, emote desire, provoke action). Rather than the aim being the completion of a successful transaction – moving customers from the top to the bottom of a notional sales funnel – the approach now for a growing number of businesses is to examine the relationship between seller and customer at every stage in the process. The first sale is merely one point on a continuum (with the sales funnel re-rendered by what we refer to as the bow-tie marketing model) where, having been converted from prospects to customers, deeper relationships are built, with some customers becoming advocates and influencers over a period of time. 2018 will see more companies adopting Customer Lifetime Value as the key benchmark by which the success of their marketing is measured, and Customer Experience Marketing (which 68% of marketers say is the basis of their current marketing plans) as the strategy for maximising it.

This is true for B2B marketing too, where Account-Based Marketing works on a company-by company basis. As well as creating marketing collateral specific to key accounts, a growth in Hyperlocal Focus is anticipated. Thanks to the democratising effect of the web, small companies can now compete with the big boys on a more level playing field. Expect the big boys to fight back, though – data-crunching and marketing automation gives them the ability to target customers by micro-region as much as by any other parameter.

This is perhaps a moment to consider the value of data. You may well have heard about Big Data. Well, the truth is that many businesses can benefit their bottom line or corporate value simply by putting systems in place that enable them to capture raw data today so that they can build highly successful marketing automation platforms in future. In fact, the value of data-rich organisations can be so significant that it is definitely worth bearing in mind if you have an exit strategy in place for a few years from now.

Implicit within the concept of creating long term relationships with customers is the delivery of a service genuinely attuned to the customers’ needs, along with the establishment of trust. This in turn requires sellers to be transparent, which in any event makes sense in a world where customers soon raise red flags on social media in response to poor service or insincere practice. As Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos puts it “It used to be that if you made a customer happy, they would tell five friends. Now with the megaphone of the internet, whether online customer reviews or social media, they can tell 5,000 friends.” In fact, it is just as realistic to suggest that it will be seen by 5,000,000 people in certain circumstances. Whatever the number, the inference is obvious. Like it or not, everyone has an opinion these days, no matter how ill-informed it might be, and there are many channels by which people can and will express it (often emotionally rather than rationally). To this end, a strategic brand proposition may be required that is understood, admired and adhered to by all members of staff. We cannot emphasise highly enough how much competitive advantage can be gained by forward-thinking organisations that are driven by a genuine philosophy of wishing to deliver an ethical proposition based upon a vision and values of real merit and worth. Just as negative feedback can hurt a company, so can positive commentary help it.

Mobile First is fast becoming an established principle, which more and more companies will adopt as an essential part of the website development process in the coming year. Increasingly, mobile devices are becoming the main route to access information online, and mobile apps far exceed websites in delivering that access, accounting for an astonishing 89% of mobile media time. It makes sense that businesses plan their communications with this trend firmly in mind. Web designers are now using Progressive Web Apps that are optimised for viewing with any browser and on any device – but first and foremost on mobiles. Push Notifications and Chatbots – automated online assistants which assist website visitors through audio or text dialogues – are also set to become more familiar as developments in Artificial Intelligence increasingly move out of the world of science and into the commercial arena. (If you’ve yet to come across a chatbot, check out Skyscanner’s, which helps visitors find live flight prices and destination ideas.)

Augmented Reality (AR), where virtual information is merged with the real world, is also tipped to grow. While some early examples enjoyed limited success (e.g. Google Glass), the speed with which the Pokemon Go craze took off showed how quickly people can engage with it. In a more traditional commercial setting, Ikea Place is an AR app that allows users to see how furniture will look in their own homes. Expect many more companies to develop their own equivalents in 2018.

Voice Command is also growing fast – it’s predicted that, in just a few years, the majority of online searches will be carried out using voice, aimed at personal virtual assistants (Amazon’s Alexa is selling fast) as well as Google and other search engines. In fact, savvy companies are already developing Alexa-specific apps, collectively known as Alexa Skills, including Ask Purina, which helps consumers discover which dog breed best fits their lifestyle.

Content marketing strategy

Besides being technically innovative, Ask Purina illustrates another vital element of successful marketing strategies, which isn’t new but which will become ever more important: content marketing strategy. Consumers want useful information that helps them to make better-informed decisions, and they show strong loyalty to brands that supply it consistently and engagingly through storytelling – building a coherent narrative around a brand and its purpose. Apple walked off with the accolade of top storytelling brand in the UK for the fifth year in a row because of its consistent narrative, which projects core values of simplicity, creativity and ease of use. Apple builds excitement in their storytelling by continually launching new products, keeping the brand front of mind and encouraging anticipation amongst their fans.

If storytelling is the principle, the fastest-growing means for delivering it is video – five billion videos are watched on YouTube every day. Not only can we expect to see quality and invention to rise across the board in 2018, we also strongly suspect that more videos will be delivered live. Research suggests consumers prefer live streaming to any other form of receiving information about products, and there seems to us to be genuine substance to this claim. Land Rover staked an early position in the field by being the first UK car manufacturer to stream live test drives (and its One Life page also has great storytelling going on). Live video is of course not just about the video itself. Social media can be used to build up real anticipation beforehand, and to spread the messages conveyed in the video afterwards. This also provides long-term SEO benefits too.

Even with all the new options available, email is still cited by many marketers as the most productive component of their content marketing strategies. Thanks to data becoming ever more granular, and with the growth of marketing automation, we already have the ability to create different messages to engage with different recipients, and automatically generate responses when recipients engage with your business. Don’t forget, though, that GDPR comes into being in May 2018 and applies new rigour to how data is obtained and handled. We will be talking more about GDPR in one of our upcoming blogs, as it is crucial to every business to understand their obligations when it comes to collecting data from about now onwards…

Content marketing is huge – research by the Content Marketing Institute found 8 out of 10 marketers believe it is key to success. Yet the same research found that only 3 out of 10 of them have a content marketing strategy in place. The conclusion is clear – having a content marketing strategy in place will give any company a significant advantage over many of its competitors. Perhaps a reason for some organisations not having a content marketing strategy in place is that they lack the resources to produce a steady flow of great content internally. This is no excuse. Companies in this situation should consider outsourcing and automation (it’s estimated around 20% of business content in 2018 will be machine-generated). Whatever way content is produced, it should be relevant and interesting, informative as opposed to salesy, and provoke the appropriate emotional response (laughter, empathy, sadness, happiness, security, etc.).

Social media marketing

It’s still a big thing of course, but the nature of social media marketing has been shifting. That being said, talk of Twitter’s impending demise is a ridiculous distortion of the truth. And Facebook, in conjunction with Instagram, is going to remain a key player in 2018. We will also see LinkedIn grow. Content repositories like YouTube, SlideShare and Google + are also going to remain important social media tools, with huge SEO benefits for those businesses that use them effectively.

Ever improving information about how people engage with businesses’ social media activity also means better metrics. Vanity metrics – likes, followers, etc. – are distorted by the number of accounts actually operated as bots, and the old maxim ‘All publicity is good publicity’ doesn’t necessarily apply in the social media world. Marketers will use more sophisticated metrics that indicate overall sentiment based on reviews, click-throughs to website, time spent on site, newsletter sign-ups, sales conversions, and so on.

The rise of Social Influencers will continue – consumers trust their independent reviews and advocacy of favourite brands. While interacting with influencers can lead to some of the most powerful marketing a business can get, it only works if the influencers themselves continue to be genuinely independent. We’ve all seen news stories reporting how quickly an influencer loses credibility if they are perceived by their followers to be in the pockets of the brands they recommend – it’s back to trust and transparency again. And it isn’t only those influencers that have huge numbers of followers who are useful – micro-bloggers can carry significant sway in specialist niches. Influencer marketing is going to be huge in 2018. One thing that nobody talks about is that business owners and senior managers can also become influencers. In fact, anyone can. If you are knowledgeable and passionate about what you do, then you are better placed than anyone to become an influencer. We see forward-thinking individuals who wish to improve their Klout score proving this prediction in 2018. Klout is a measure of your personal influence in the online space, with the lovely strapline, “Be known for what you love”.

For B2B marketers, LinkedIn’s importance looks likely to grow substantially this year. LinkedIn has developed features (e.g. InMail Analytics) with the deliberate aim of making it the clear platform of choice for engaging with other companies.

Whether B2B or B2C, the companies that enjoy the greatest success with social media will be those where its use is embedded across their organisation. Its reach will be wider and deeper the more touchpoints there are between employees and customers.

Other marketing media

Do not forget that many other forms of marketing media will of course continue to play their part in 2018 – SEO and paid search, in particular, come to mind. But so will traditional forms of media, such as advertising, events, sales promotion, PR and channel incentives. Trends indicate change opportunities and disruptive growth, but they may not be right for your organisation, so it is important to take a rational view across the board when creating your sales and marketing plans for the year ahead

However, we believe the areas discussed in this article will unquestionably see the fastest evolution and most disruptive game changing activity during 2018. In other words, this is potentially where more planning and strategic resource need to be allocated to ensure that you are making the best use of the range of tools and techniques available.


Here is a glossary explaining some of the key items mentioned in this article in a bit more detail. If you would like to know more, just copy and paste each phrase into a search engine like Google.

Account-Based Marketing: a strategic approach to business marketing in which an organisation considers and communicates with individual prospect or customer accounts as markets of one.

Artificial Intelligence: where a device perceives its environment, and takes actions that maximize its chance of success at some goal, mimicking human intelligence.

Augmented Reality: superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.

Big Data: extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions.

Chatbots: an automated program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.

Customer Experience Marketing: puts the customer at the centre of marketing. Information the customer wants is provided – not sales talk.

Customer Lifetime Value: a prediction of the net profit attributed to the entire future relationship with a customer.

Hyperlocal Focus: marketing targeted at a certain region, such as shoppers in a certain city or within a certain distance from a business. 

Mobile First: where designing a website for smartphones, tablets and mobile devices takes priority over desktop web design. 

Progressive Web Apps: regular web pages or websites that can appear to the user like traditional mobile apps. They combine features offered by most browsers with the benefits of mobile experience. 

Push Notifications: a message that pops up on a mobile device at any time; users don’t have to be in the app or using their devices to receive them.

Social Influencers: a user on social media with established credibility in a specific field, has access to a large audience, and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach.

Voice Command: where devices are controlled by means of the human voice, as opposed to buttons, dials and switches.

The psychology behind free samples: why freebies keep customers

Free samples are great, but the concept of giving something you’ve invested in away for free can seem somewhat daunting for many businesses. After all – if your customers aren’t paying for your products, then you are.

However, that simple fact shouldn’t be enough to dissuade you from the benefits of product sampling. In fact, free samples can generate a huge amount of sales for you over time, sometimes boosting profits by as much as 2000%!

Product samples allow you to introduce your new products to unfamiliar audiences, foster loyalty with customers and expand the knowledge your customers have about your products.

Here, we’ll look at the psychology behind why product sampling keeps customers coming back for more.

Helping customers make choices

When it comes to buying something, your customers go through something called the “buyer decision process”, when they need to make a purchase. They begin by recognising that they have a problem or desire before they start seeking out a potential solution.

A huge amount of information can influence a shopper’s decision when they’re making a choice in the saturated marketplace. Everything from price to availability can play a part.

Product sampling can help your company to cut through some of this noise, convincing your customer to make a purchasing decision that works in your favour. Because your customer can try the product before they buy it, the risk of purchasing something new is diminished.

The rule of reciprocity

Another psychological phenomenon that causes product sampling to work to your advantage is something called the rule of reciprocity. Basically, when you something nice for someone, it makes them feel as though they should be doing something nice for you in return.

When your business gives free samples out to customers, they feel compelled to do something for you in response, like purchase a product, or even talk about your company to their friend. This creates a sense of obligation in your customers that keeps them coming back for more after they’ve tried your product.

Improving perception of your brand

Ultimately, free samples improve customer perception about your brand, making people feel warm and fuzzy about your company through reciprocity and convenience. Samples aren’t just for attracting new customers or introducing new products to the marketplace.

When they’re used properly, your samples can also be the secret sauce that keeps your clients coming back in the future.

Hotcow is a non-traditional creative agency that specialises in experiential marketing that goes viral. Our campaigns generate buzz through crowd participation, PR and content sharing. Contact us on 0207 5030442, or email us on info@hotcow.co.uk.

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Why AI Can’t Take Over Shopping (Yet)

Integer’s I&S Director Jacquelyn Ethredge penned a byline surrounding Integer’s Artificial Intelligence research, appearing on The Huffington Post and AW360.
“AI has been integrated into shopping in ways people haven’t fully realized, and we’ve only just begun to proactively and intentionally use it. As we head into a future fueled by data and powered by AI, there is a gap between what shoppers are currently using AI for and what they say they’ll let it do. Brands and retailers looking to innovate with AI should take action to be a part of the change that’s coming to the future of shopping by providing value that is customized to shoppers, targeting chore transactions and improving search experience and accuracy.”
Click on the links above to read the rest of the article.  For more information on Integer’s AI research, visit: integer.com/artificialintelligence.

WPP Prepares for Brexit, Acquiring Portugal Shop

Amid the specter of Brexit, WPP is strengthening its European presence with the acquisition of Portuguese creative agency Bomptempo, Anahory & Ralha.

The agency is merging with Ogilvy & Mather Portugal to create BAR Ogilvy, which will be run by BAR’s three founders, Jose Momtempo, Diogo Anahory and Miguel Ralha.

BAR’s clients include Sagres, Nespresso, and TAP Air Portugal. It was founded in 2009 and revenue for 2016 were $3 million.

Continue reading at AdAge.com

Don’t deny the need for normcore

Mainstream is cool: you heard it here first. Gone are the days of revelling in choice; people are bamboozled. Consumers are beginning to mistrust fad following brands and running back to old faithfuls. There’s comfort in our favourites and in this tumultuous time, people want to settle down and cosy up with what they can rely on.

The best example of this is craft beer. Independent micro-breweries were all the rage a few years ago and consumers would avoid your Carlsbergs, Foster’s and Becks like the plague. It’s the same as “I knew them before they were big” claims with indie bands; as soon as they’re famous, fans move on. At one point, big beer brands even tried distressed labels to seem more “authentic.” But as craft beer has boomed, it’s no longer hip to namedrop the obscure. Fast forward a few years and consumers have circled right back by coveting friendly brands they’ve known their whole lives – we call this “poptimism.” We’re now experiencing a serious backlash to craft beer in the media, but isn’t the whole definition of being cool being different? So shouldn’t contrary consumers be doing the opposite of what the media is preaching? The whole thing makes your head spin.

The same is happening with coffee. Those iced almond-macadamia milk lattes are just too much to fathom when you just need a good old-fashioned caffeine kick. When you’re trudging into the office on a Monday morning, the warm lights of chain coffee shops represent a home from home. They draw you in during sensitive moments like a moth to a flame. It’s times like these when consumers opt for cheap buckets of filter coffee over a brag-worthy flat white (even the Instagram likes aren’t worth it). Campaign explains that the media has nicknamed this movement “normcore.”

Just look at “clean eating,” which has shaken up the food industry over the past few years. Causing endless opinion pieces on spiralizers, now consumers are retreating back to cake and abandoning complicated courgette recipes. The rainbow plates of exotic fruit and vegetables may look better on Instagram than a greasy burger, but who can be bothered with that? Cutting out entire food groups is not only time-consuming but the effort is pretty damn stressful. VICE’s Munchies is leading ‘food porn’ media by quashing health food fads one dripping cheese toastie photo at a time. As soon as people, along with hoards of trained nutritionists, started to question the credibility of fancy food aficionados, the trend was dissected and is, thankfully, slowly dissolving. The biggest issue? The complicated recipes isolate a huge chunk of the population who can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods for bone broth, sumac, chia seeds and the like. On top of that, most of those behind the clean eating surge are white, attractive, thin women (more on that in our blog on diversity). But we digress, all this aside there is proof that consumers are going back to basics – just look at soaring supermarkets.

Time and time again, consumers get sucked in with fancy logos and ridiculous names, allured by something new, only to be disappointed in the product. In other words; the novelty and fleeting excitement does not justify the risk of losing out on what they really want deep down. What’s the lesson for brands? Think it through before jumping on the bandwagon as you could end up wasting piles of cash and crawling right back to where you started. You also risk losing loyal customers who always loved your original product in the first place. Don’t follow the trends for the sake of it, choice wisely and be 100% sure your market will understand and respond well to your new tricks. But trust us; there is really, really, wrong with sticking to what you know.

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Is there a wrong way to offer free samples?

Free samples can be an incredible way to improve loyalty in your customers and attract new markets to your business. In fact, with free samples, you can even entice your existing customers to buy more from you.

However, before you allow your customers to sample everything you have to offer, it’s worth knowing that providing too much can be a bad decision.

When people are presented with only a small selection of choices, deciding what they do can feel like a manageable experience. However, when you start adding more choices into the mix, our ability to choose one option starts to decline. Eventually, we reach a point where we can’t decide at all because we’re so overwhelmed.

Offering freebies, the right way

Everyone loves a free sample, but if you want your sampling campaign to have a positive impact, then you need a plan for the products you’re going to offer. Before you simply start to give things away, you’ll need to think about the following questions:

  • How are you going to measure the outcomes of your sample campaign? This could help you to avoid a spray and pray approach to sampling.
  • Who do you want to engage with your product? Are you introducing your samples to a new customer base, an existing one, or are you simply trying to generate loyalty for your brand? This will help you to get your samples to the right shoppers.
  • Why are you offering free samples? What are your goals and when do you hope to achieve them? Answering this question will help you to determine what to offer, where you should offer it, and how long your campaign might last.

Incorporating sampling into your business strategy

Science tells us that samples can be a powerful solution for modern companies because they help to create a sense of loyalty among customers and incentivize new clients to make a purchase. This is great for your business, but you might wonder how you can incorporate sampling into your strategy when your company is primarily online.

Remember, with the right plan, product samples don’t have to be reserved exclusively for physical retailers.

You can always consider offering a sampling pack to any customer that makes a purchase on your website or give people a digital download that they can take advantage of from your virtual store.

Offering samples correctly is about being creative, strategic, and customising the process to the needs of your brand. Don’t just give freebies out randomly, choose a sampling solution that works for you.

Hotcow is a non-traditional creative agency that specialises in experiential marketing that goes viral. Our campaigns generate buzz through crowd participation, PR and content sharing. Contact us on 0207 5030442, or email us on info@hotcow.co.uk.

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NASA sees direct proof that the hole in the ozone layer is slowly shrinking

Good news for the planet for once: NASA scientists have found direct proof that the hole in the ozone layer is shrinking. In 2017, NASA reported that the size of the hole in September was at its smallest since 1988. Now thanks to some nifty instruments strapped aboard the Aura satellite, they have found incontrovertible …

Good news for the planet for once: NASA scientists have found direct proof that the hole in the ozone layer is shrinking. In 2017, NASA reported that the size of the hole in September was at its smallest since 1988. Now thanks to some nifty instruments strapped aboard the Aura satellite, they have found incontrovertible evidence of it, showing that chlorine from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) is diminishing in the ozone hole, and that ozone depletion is slowing down as a result.

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Why product sampling is crucial for marketing new products

Bringing a new product to the marketplace can be a complex and challenging experience.

You need to convince your target customer that the item you’re offering is better than what your competitors have to offer, but you also need to compel them to take the risk and trust your brand, in an age when consumers are more sceptical than ever.

The good news is that no matter how saturated the current marketplace might seem, you can still carve a space for yourself in your chosen industry with the help of one simple tactic: product sampling.

The challenge of selling a new product

If you’re delivering a brand-new product that’s never been seen before, then the challenge is convincing your customers that they need this item you have to offer.

On the other hand, if you’re introducing a variation of a pre-existing product, then you’ll need to compel your audience to switch to buying from you, instead of sticking with an already well-known company.

Product sampling is the solution that helps you to overcome both of those issues as cost-effectively, and efficiently as possible. It works on the premise that your customers simply want proof. They need to know for certain that you can offer them something valuable that they can’t get anywhere else.

While you can write a million marketing messages telling your customers that you’re the best, and share those messages on everything from television, to social media, the only true way to convince your clients that they need your product, is to let them try it for themselves.

Product sampling delivers long-term results

A lot of companies assume that the only value of product sampling is that it’s more likely to convince customers to buy your product when they’re browsing options in a local store. Tasting or trying a new product is exciting, and a little sample can be enough to convince your customers that they want more from your brand – but the benefits don’t stop there.

Product sampling also allows you to overcome the problem with “unfamiliarity” that can stop customers from purchasing your item in the long run.

Every time you give out a free sample, you can encourage customers to talk about their experience in the form of feedback and testimonials. Not only does this boost your exposure to word-of-mouth marketing, but it also means that you quickly gather the social proof that puts your product on the map.

With sampling, an unheard-of item can go from obscurity to viral fame in less than a week. Why not see what this strategy can do for you?

Hotcow is a non-traditional creative agency that specialises in experiential marketing that goes viral. Our campaigns generate buzz through crowd participation, PR and content sharing. Contact us on 0207 5030442, or email us on info@hotcow.co.uk.

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