Top Research Blogs of 2021
30 Dec 2021

Provoke Insights wants to thank your support in 2021, and we are excited for a great start to the new year. We love market research, and we are so happy that our blog has gained so much traction. Almost 15,000 people read our top blogs of the year!

As 2021 comes to a close, we wanted to re-share our most popular posts.

5. Research Norms: What are they and what they can tell you

The fifth most-read blog discusses research norms and explains why benchmarks are crucial in helping determine where a brand stands amongst the competition.

4. The Pros & Cons of In-depth Interviews

In 2021, we found quite a few clients requesting in-depth interviews for branding initiatives. The article explains why this methodology is so popular, and some watch-outs when using this methodology.

3. The Pros & Cons of Online Focus Groups

As Covid is unfortunately still here, many brands have asked about online focus groups. Many factors make in-person groups not ideal as the pandemic continues. So when should brands use online focus groups? Are there any shortfalls? And when should you look into other methodologies?

2. The Pros & Cons of Online Survey Research

The second most popular blog of the year explains why online surveys can be so advantageous to brands. It also points out that researching on your own has several potential downfalls, such as survey error and inherent biases being so close to the brand.

1. The Pros & Cons of Secondary Research

The top article of the year was about how to utilize the information already out there. Brands often skip this methodology and go right into primary research. However, secondary research has several benefits – there is no point in reinventing the wheel if the data is already out there. 


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2022 Marketing Trends
29 Dec 2021

It’s a new year, and that means new trends. It’s about time we dive into our yearly tradition of looking at what to expect in the year to come when it comes to marketing and advertising. Here are a few trends to watch out for when planning for 2022.

The Return to Virtual…Again

It’s been a long two years of virtual offices and Zoom happy hours. Consumers’ fear of “going out” has made out-of-home advertising less relevant since the beginning of the pandemic. While we may have gotten a slight taste of normalcy over the past six months, new variants of the virus have set the clock backward on a full reopening. Travel plans are being canceled once again, and some offices are extending work-from-home or hybrid setups. As consumers tire of online activities, brands will need to get more creative about reaching audiences at home. Brands should try less traditional methods, such as influencer partnerships or social media contests, to get consumers excited online about their products. These companies need to remain flexible for when Covid cases decrease and people re-emerge for virtual settings. 

Politics Can Make or Break a Brand

Today’s American consumers are deeply invested in their beliefs. Many even think that companies should actively take a stand on political issues. Brands need to be conscious about where they do or do not comment on trending topics. Brands can pipe in on relevant issues in simple ways, like participation in trending social media hashtags or including messages in more elaborate marketing initiatives. In considering their advertising, companies will need to find the balance between pleasing one audience without isolating too many other consumers.

A Step Away from COVID-Centered Ads

Throughout the pandemic, brands have capitalized on the opportunity to plan advertising around togetherness, family, or other sentimental themes. Companies have been quick to mention the “challenging times” in their campaigns. However, moving into 2022, we could begin to see a drop in such campaigns. As states lift some of the restrictions of the past few years, and as the population goes through pandemic fatigue, brands may try avoiding the topic and focus on other themes instead.

Continuous Research is a Must

As the world continues to change daily, so do consumers’ interests, opinions, and attitudes. Research from three years ago, or even one year ago, can be outdated. As consumer sentiment fluctuates, their willingness to try new products or technologies change as well. Brands must stay aware of their audiences as they cycle through the roller coaster of today’s economy to successfully launch new products and maintain the health of existing ones.

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Behind the Scenes of a Successful Insights Panel
14 Dec 2021

Whether you are constantly fielding fire drill requests from internal stakeholders or trying to keep a pulse on the ever-changing consumer landscape, a custom insights panel is probably on your research wish-list. Many research professionals are tasked with answering some BIG questions with a little budget, and having a pool of consumers at your fingertips 24/7 is a game-changer. 

While we all appreciate automation thanks to smart technology, sadly, these panels cannot operate as a “set it and forget it” solution. Here are some tips to optimizing member participation so you can prevent your panel from fizzling out: 

  1. Get Up Close & Personal

Get to know your members, and then get to know them again and again! Approach your initial recruit like you would a first date. Ask a lot of questions (like, a lot) and onboard your members with a survey designed to get to know them. Take inventory of their interests, hobbies, daily routines, and lifestyle choices. Members can get discouraged if they are constantly terminating out of surveys, so these profiles will help target future activities to only those who qualify.

And just like the seasons change, so do people’s interests, attitudes, and routines, so check-in frequently. A good rule of thumb is to re-field a version of your profile survey at least quarterly to keep up with these consumer shifts.

  1. It’s a Destination, Not a Distribution List

Treat your insights panel as a true online community. A landing page will encourage members to visit without being prompted by surveys. Create a destination where they can interact with other members, participate in discussion boards & forums, and view content (i.e., news, tips, lists). You can even share results of fun polls and surveys they participated in so they can see the fruits of their efforts. In fact, it’s not just about cashing out – many members value the intrinsic rewards like leaderboards, badges, and member spotlights. Remember, these people are opting in – so make it worth their while.

  1. Let Your Members Loose

The world may not be back to “normal,” but your qualitative research doesn’t have to suffer. The pandemic got us all comfortable using technology, so why not have your members lean in? An insights panel makes it easy to recruit for virtual IDIs and focus groups, but members can let their voice be heard in other fun & interactive ways, without the hassle of scheduling interviews. 

Instead of members typing out their open ends, give them the option to submit a selfie response. Offer big points for mystery shopping and encourage members to whip out a smartphone in-store to get real-time top-of-mind reviews and experiences. Don’t be afraid to have fun with your research; your members will appreciate a break from agreement scales and pre-lists (and you will too!)

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The Pros & Cons of International Qualitative Research
26 Oct 2021

As more brands are now seeking the benefits of globalization, the need to conduct international qualitative research has become more important than ever to understand consumer behavior. Conducting research outside a brand’s home country brings illuminating insights with a caveat of unique challenges. In this blog, we will dive deeper into the pros and cons of international online qualitative research.

Pros of International Online Qualitative Research


Conducting online focus groups has fewer physical boundaries. There are no travel fees involved, as the moderators and participants can join within the comfort of their homes or offices. Though there are country-specific time zones to be mindful of when scheduling sessions, data is available for market researchers to analyze almost immediately. 

Unique Perspectives

Globally, consumers perceive brands differently and therefore have a unique relationship with a brand. Having said that, a key advantage of online focus groups on an international scale is that participants can share their perspectives for a specific brand. This data can be unique, multi-varied, and culturally sensitive. 

Advanced Technology

Now that technology has become so advanced, executing online qualitative research internationally has become much easier, efficient, and cost-effective. Various methodologies such as in-depth interviews and online focus groups can be utilized through web conferencing software to help brands understand what consumers truly think. Other unique research methods like AI qualitative research and selfie interviews reveal attitudes, thoughts, and beliefs about the brand or product.

Cons of International Online Qualitative Research

Communicating in the Local Language

Although conducting online focus groups allows for flexibility, searching for a moderator who can speak the local language can be challenging. Different dialects can also impact focus group responses. If the focus group is facilitated by a moderator who can speak the native language, participants will be more willing to share their attitudes and beliefs.  

Translating Culture

When it comes to international qualitative research, it’s important to be mindful of cultural sensitivities and nuances. Some cultures have taboo subjects or revered customs. Additionally, people of certain cultural backgrounds may be more apprehensive or quieter in focus groups. This can distort consumer insights. 

Lack of Technological Infrastructure

Although technological advancements have transformed market research, some countries may lack technological infrastructure. This can be a barrier to setting up and gathering sufficient, reliable insights.


Brands must consider cost when taking on a project internationally. It plays a major factor in the translation of transcripts, recruitment, and simultaneous interpretation. Each country that participates in a qualitative research study brings added insights–as well as added costs. 

There are many pros and cons to international online qualitative research. Overall, it can result in insightful takeaways on brand attitude and perception, it also comes with certain limitations. Depending on the study and KPIs, it’s important to weigh the benefits and costs for qualitative methodologies. 

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Pros & Cons of Research with Kids
04 Oct 2021

There are about 73 million children (under 18) in the US. This group, which accounts for almost a quarter of our nation’s population, has an incredible say in the market even though they may not even  have wallets yet. Conducting research for this audience is important both for brands currently looking to appeal to children as well as companies who want to understand their future customers. Here are some pros and cons to consider if your brand is thinking of commissioning research with kids:


Their Parents Like to Spend

Parents love to provide for their children. Today’s parents are spending more on their kids than ever before, accounting for billions of dollars in annual spending. A quarter of US consumers purchased toys in early 2021. In 2020, half of younger parents planned on spending more on entertainment for their children. Conducting market research on children helps brands understand which products and content can appeal to the audience. Brands can then turn to the parents and demonstrate how their products meet their child’s needs.

They’re Passionate and They Show It

It can sometimes seem like kids are just young innocent little people who are unaware of worldly issues happening around them, but this could not be further from the truth. As the most diverse generation, they are exposed to many of the same situations we think about regarding the working class–and they notice. Today’s kids hold strong opinions about some of the world’s biggest issues from school safety to gender equality. They also express their concerns with these issues as freely as some adults. One in 5 children have marched or protested about an issue they are passionate about. As adults are already forming opinions on companies based on their takes on worldly topics, brands should take an early opportunity to see what topics the next wave of consumers are thinking about.

They are Our Future Consumers

As mentioned before, understanding what children like can help a brand cater to parents for short term purchases. However, brands can work in advance to seek out developing behaviors and trends that can predict what these generations will care about when they are older. Brands can get a head start developing products and marketing campaigns that will appeal to these kids when they are older and have their own spending power.


They Lack Immediate  Purchasing Power

Though kids may be influential in their parent’s purchasing decisions, at the end of the day, they may not have the final say in spending. Though it could be lucrative to gain insight into the needs of future audiences, some companies may be looking to assess immediate needs. It could be more beneficial for these brands to conduct research on parents as opposed to children. Millennial parents say that their children’s habits influence their purchases. Speaking to or surveying parents could be more effective for examining the current pool of consumers.

They are Difficult to Reach

Gathering children for research is not as simple as it is for adults. Recruitment can be difficult and costly. Children are not directly connected to survey marketplaces or recruitment lists. This means researchers are really recruiting parents to volunteer and supervise their kids during the research. This factor puts an extra layer of targeting on top of other aspects that need to be accounted for in a specific study.

Developing Kid Friendly Research Requires Additional Innovation and Compliance

Conducting research among kids requires an immense amount of thoughtfulness and creativity. Survey questions and research guides must be engaging and easy to understand. They also must include age-appropriate material. Extra care must be taken to select the appropriate type of methodology for the targeted age group. For example, quantitative research among children under 5 years old is extra challenging. In all cases, parents will likely need to assist their children through the research. Finally, research on children must follow strict COPPA requirements which include revealing the research topic and how the research will be used.

Developing research for younger audiences can give brands insights into how they influence their parents current spending as well as help them predict what future trends may develop as kids grow older. Companies should consider these plusses and minuses, decide what their needs are, and evaluate whether speaking to tomorrow’s consumers can help them today.

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The Pros & Cons of In-Depth Interviews vs. Focus Groups
09 Sep 2021

When brands set out to conduct qualitative market research, they are seeking deeper insights. Qualitative research methods give light to the consumer thought-process, emotional appeals, and the overall “why?” behind an attitude, thought, or belief. When it comes to qualitative research, there are two primary methods: in-depth interviews and focus groups. In this blog, we will take a look at the pros and cons of in-depth interviews versus focus groups.

In-Depth Interviews

Intimate Insights

IDIs typically involve one moderator and one interviewee. Since the pandemic began, researchers conduct almost all interviews virtually via a video conferencing software like Zoom. These interviews are incredibly intimate. As the questioning only involves one participant, the moderator is free to explore opinions without biases from others. Thus, researchers develop the interview guide of questions with more breadth and depth in mind.

Greater Flexibility

When scheduling in-depth interviews, there is more flexibility compared to focus groups. Participants are contacted directly by the research firm or brand. Since they can pick a time that works best for their schedule, there is an increased willingness for participants to agree to the interview. There are also unique incentives brands or market research firms can use. For example, offering a donation to a charity of the participants’ choice incentivizes them to take the time out of their day.

Focus Groups

Focus groups, on the other hand, are much more collaborative and broad in scope. This qualitative method is perfect for brands looking to follow up with quantitative audience segmentation research. Pre-pandemic, in-person focus groups were conducted in groups of five to ten in-person. They took place in a specially designed room with recording equipment, a two-way mirror, and no visible clocks. Nowadays, research firms conduct most focus groups online using video conferencing software. Due to the constraints of video conferencing, virtual focus groups involve fewer participants, typically three to four. 

Collaborative Ideas

Researchers may gain fewer personal, intimate insights from focus groups. As there are more participants, individuals may feel less inclined to speak without judgment. However, in focus groups, participants can brainstorm together and build upon each others’ ideas. As researchers conduct focus groups among groups with similar interests (for example, vegetarians), they may agree upon, or even more interestingly, disagree upon certain ideas and beliefs. This gives researchers a broad view of a certain segment, which can ultimately inform brand strategy.

Brand Team at the Forefront

Because focus groups are larger, representatives from the brand commissioning the research can observe the sessions in real-time. During in-person sessions, these individuals can watch behind the two-way mirror; during online sessions, they can join the Zoom as an “Observer.” In addition to the market researcher’s immediate topline summary and final deliverables, the brand can observe the commonalities and differences between participants themselves. 

Focus groups and in-depth interviews offer a range of key insights for brands looking to better understand an audience, launch a product, or test a concept. The pros and cons of in-depth interviews versus focus groups are varied in scope; they involve interview intimacy, feasibility, and client observation. Despite the shift to online sessions, there are still many opportunities for brands to take advantage of qualitative research that is more agile, asynchronous, and observable. With an experienced moderator, a robust screener guide, and willing participants, brands can sit back and watch the magic happen.

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The Pros & Cons of Market Research
23 Aug 2021

Market research is an essential part of what makes brands successful. Analyzing consumer behavior and market trends allows companies to capitalize on the main factors driving consumers to purchase their products. They can then optimize their strategy accordingly. Three of the many key questions market research aims to answer include: who is the target audience? What makes them buy a certain product? And, how can brands take advantage of trends to increase sales and brand awareness? In this blog, we will take a look at the pros and cons of market research as a whole.

The Pros of Market Research

Trackable Return on Investment 

The valuable insights that come from market research can allow a company to gain information about the market and make their product successful. For instance, knowledge of customer satisfaction, consumer behaviors, and competitors lead to informed strategic decisions. In the long run, brands can arm themselves with this research. 

Improved Sales

Market research allows a company to see their buyers’ wants and needs and adjust their product to meet those needs. Combining this with an increased awareness surrounding current trends and viral fads empowers a company with all the information they need to optimize their product, advertising, and business plan. Actionable strategy can lead directly to a large uptick in sales.

Increased Brand Awareness 

Knowing what people think about a brand and which audiences are aware of it is valuable information. With awareness research, brands can make decisions to increase awareness in certain target audiences and broaden the company’s reach as a whole. As a result, brands can take full advantage of tapping into markets they may not have known about previously. This can take the shape of anything from a small tweak in a company’s branding and advertising to a full-blown rebrand. Read more about brand awareness, the different kinds, and their benefits in Provoke Insights’ blog post about it.

The Drawbacks of Market Research

High Cost

Every rose has its thorn, and market research is no exception. The knowledge and insights it provides come at a cost. A market research campaign is pricey. This price tag comes from compensating researchers for the time spent researching, writing reports, and developing insights. The knowledge of target markets and trends gained from market research typically saves companies time and a lot of money in the long run. Due to this, many are willing to budget for market research firms’ services.

DIY Can Be Misleading

Market research doesn’t help a company achieve its goals if it doesn’t produce accurate results. Firms who try to do internal or ‘do-it-yourself’ market research often get faulty insights. This is usually due to a lack of experience and savvy in the field. DIY market researchers lack the necessary experience in several areas that can compromise their ability to conduct market research successfully. For example, a lack of questionnaire development expertise may lead to questions being designed improperly. Incorrectly programmed surveys can produce skewed or incorrect results. In addition, inexperience with sample selection and failure to test properly for validity and reliability of results can lead to biased conclusions. Hiring a market research firm with trained professionals is an easy way of avoiding this.

Final Thoughts

Though there are certain drawbacks with market research, including cost and technicalities surrounding DIY research, the benefits are undeniable. When looking at the pros and cons of market research, it’s clear that brands should outline their needs and goals first. Ultimately, hiring a market research firm can set brands above the competition, better identify targets, and result in short-term and long-term ROI.

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What’s the Difference Between Unaided and Aided Brand Awareness?
18 Aug 2021

As retailers all over the world gear up for the post-pandemic surge in consumer spending, many are taking advantage of the wide variety of benefits market and branding research have to offer. Two of the most important aspects of branding research are competitive intelligence and brand awareness. In particular, analyzing consumers’ ability to recognize your company, product, or advertisement in comparison to key competitors is a strong indicator of how well-positioned your brand is. Aided and unaided brand awareness research both produce well-developed metrics for gaining a competitive advantage. Though they differ, the benefits of both are undeniably valuable at any stage of brand strategizing.

Unaided Awareness

Unaided awareness is the percentage of respondents aware of a product, brand, or advertising top-of-mind without assistance. This open-ended question asks respondents generally what brands they are familiar with in an industry. For example, an unaided awareness question asks,  “Which brands first come to mind when you think about clothing?” and gives participants the opportunity to input, unprompted, which brands they are most familiar with. This method of questioning measures brand recall.

Aided Awareness

Aided awareness evaluates prompted knowledge of a brand. Respondents are shown a list of brands and asked to mark down which ones, if any, they are aware of. This tests brand recognition. Aided awareness must always come after unaided awareness in a survey to maintain the integrity of awareness without prompting. It is also important to randomize the list of brands for each respondent in order to prevent sequence bias, which leads to the top choice being selected more often simply because it’s listed first.

Depending on the type of research a brand takes on, companies might seek out different insights. For example, brands seeking brand tracking research may evaluate region specific brands by adjusting survey options based on where a given respondent lives.

Two Sets of Data Are Better Than One

Total brand awareness is a valuable metric for companies to have. Adding the percentage of respondents that recalled a brand in unaided awareness with the respondents that recognized a brand in aided awareness (while removing duplicates) is a way of measuring total awareness.

Building brand awareness is crucial because 59% of consumers first check familiar brands when setting out to buy a new product. Furthermore, consumers cannot consider products they are unaware of. The more aware of a brand a consumer is, the more comfortable and the more likely they are to try it when browsing through the market.

Brand awareness research not only produces valuable information about how a brand stacks up against the competition, but also can acquire data that has the power to help drive sales, improve brand perception, open new channels, platforms and points of access to target audiences and more.


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Looking Ahead: Post-COVID Back-to-School Trends
08 Jul 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic was a time like no other. Everyday life was interrupted on an international scale, and the global economy faltered. Faced with unexpected and substantial economic instability, consumer confidence declined drastically, and many only made purchases to meet their basic needs. Now, with over 2.7 billion people vaccinated and the global infection rate trending downwards, consumers are beginning to “treat themselves” and spend more. With back to school – one of retail’s biggest annual events – right around the corner, experts will be watching back to school trends carefully to determine how well consumer confidence has recovered.

Celebrate the Good Times

Experts expect consumers to spend more money on school supplies, clothes, and dorm room decorations. Many colleges, universities, and K-12 schools plan for a full in-person return this fall. With this combined with a renewed optimism and increased vaccination rates, brands may expect more demand than ever. According to a forecast analysis by Mastercard, sales in the back to school range (mid-July to early September) should rise by 6.7% compared with 2019 and 5.5% compared with 2020. Consumers are willing to spend even more than they were pre-pandemic. These back to school trends point to an end to the economic downturn.

Brands eagerly await the fruition of these forecasts. Some retailers struggled during the pandemic as consumer focus shifted away from non-essential goods and will be looking to make up for lost time. Businesses such as Target and Walmart will face the challenge of competing with their unexpectedly high numbers from last year due to essential goods and online grocery sales. The back to school shopping season will be essential in accomplishing this goal. These businesses will likely be undergoing significant branding campaigns during this time, where they will rely on consumer science and market research on back to school trends to determine the best ways to engage their newly confident customers and tap into new market segments.

Old Habits Die Hard

Experts predict online shopping to continue to be a habit for consumers and trend upwards. E-commerce is expected to grow 53% from 2019 and 7% from 2020. Online shopping in 2021 will likely outpace itself compared to 2020, when there were less in-person shopping options. This is likely due to consumers’ willingness to spend more overall as they financially recover from the pandemic. It also seems like consumers nowadays generally prefer online shopping to in-person shopping.

Branding and advertising campaigns looking to keep up with competitors should take the opportunities of back-to-school into account. In the past, campaigns have highlighted the simplicity of online shopping. They have also offered deals to those who shopped on certain days (Amazon Prime day, Cyber Monday, etc.). These companies often use qualitative and quantitative research to test the feasibility of their new product or campaign, determine who their target audience is, and gain insights on maximizing profits. The growing trend of online shopping seems like it’s here to stay. Companies wanting to capitalize on it will be sure to act quickly and deliberately, especially during the back to school shopping rush.

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Looking Ahead: The “New Normal” of Qualitative Research
09 Jun 2021

When the world shut down at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, every industry rushed to make adjustments to their protocols and procedures. In response to stay at home orders and social distancing, many industries shifted to a work-from-home setup. For researchers, this meant conducting what would normally be in-person qualitative research, such as focus groups and in-depth interviews, in virtual formats.

As the world comes closer to a sense of familiarity, there is also talk of the creation of a “new normal.” This is to say that some changes that came as a result of COVID-19 may not disappear too quickly, if at all. As of January 2021, over half of Americans were still concerned about shopping in person and many prefer shopping online even if they are comfortable going to a store. Regarding companies and industries, many have shifted to permanent work-from-home or hybrid formats, as workers realized the extent of what is possible without coming into an office.

At some point, focus group centers will reopen, in-person interviews will be possible, and some sense of normalcy will return to the research industry. But when this happens, will virtual versions of these methods become a thing of the past? Here are some reasons why we believe virtual qualitative research is in it for the long-haul.

See participants in their natural settings

By definition, qualitative research is meant to provide a deep look into the minds, thought-processes, and lives of consumers. Focus groups and IDIs provide this by asking open-ended questions and follow up questions, and by allowing moderators to analyze participants’ emotions and expressions. Virtual versions of these methods add a new layer of possibilities. Researchers can see participants in their own homes and environments. This allows the analysis to include notes on lifestyle factors that would not be seen in a facility location. You can also tell a person’s interests based on belongings that are caught on camera. Additionally, participants may feel more comfortable and responsive in their own familiar surroundings.

Research a larger variety of markets with ease

Qualitative research is a common step in introducing a product or service to new markets or even new countries. However, conducting focus groups in a facility means either traveling to the prospective locations or skipping out on attending  in person. This can be a time consuming process, especially if your company is considering multiple markets. With virtual focus groups, you can run a session in London one hour and a session in New York the next! Researchers can even mix different markets within the same focus groups (for example, you can include people from all over the East Coast of the US in one group). Virtual tools open up qualitative research to these possibilities that were difficult, if not impossible, before. 

Fit qualitative research into your plans on a smaller budget

Qualitative research can run up a significant tab and take up a large portion of a project’s budget. Aside from travel expenses, focus-groups and IDIs require renting facilities, provide a large enough incentive to entice participants to commute, and more! Virtual focus groups can reduce or even eliminate many of these costs. There is no room rental and participants are willing to join for a lower cost. These reduced costs together with the lack of travel needs can open up qualitative research to companies who, until now, have not been able to fit it into their budgets.

The world may be on it’s way back to normalcy, but in many ways we should learn from the past year. We can reflect and appreciate what we learned in both the way we live and the way we work. Some of what we have implemented over these months should continue, as they open up doors that we did not previously know existed. This surely applies to virtual focus groups and IDIs.

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