Why influencer marketing is the future of content

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In many posts have we written about the relevance of influencer marketing and how it differs from the value of brand advocates. Today, many marketing organizations and brands have understood the power of influencer marketing and dedicate a significant amount of their budget to them. And there are good reason for it which we can see from one of the latest infographics in the market provided by the guys from The Shelf.

Shoppers trust in influencers and use them as their third-most-consulted consumer decision information source. Although brand and retail sites are still in the lead as an information source. Blogs already come in right after them, even ranking higher than well-trusted social networks like Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram.

Years ago, we have made clear that the 3 Rs of the social consumer will be leading the decision making process in the future: ratings, reviews and recommendations. The infographic is another proof for our thesis those days. These days, influencer are more trusted than brand content where recommendations have got the biggest power with 92% of consumers trusting in those. Reviews have become the second most trusted source (70%). People also try to stay on top of thought leaderwith blog content that is consulted by 47%.

Although the opportunities are there, only two out of three marketers (65%) invest in influencer marketing so far. and every second company separates their budgets for sponsored social content from other budgets (52%). Still, the amount of investment is not „nickles and dimes“ anymore for brands and companies. Every fourth company already spends over $500,000 already.

Spot On!
Why influencers play an important role inside your content strategy is obvious. They can explain products from various subjective and objective angles. They can play an important role in your community management when negative input needs tob e turned into positive arguments. They can have a big impact in your content production strategy in having an external view on your business and relevance in the market, and thus become your „search-engine-optimizers“. And, they will play a significant role in your sales approach if you take your time to think about it (or maybe talk to us if you don’t have an answer).

Have a look at the infographic and decide yourself if and how you would like to use influencer marketing in the future.


Social Selling 2015: The year of redefined engagement

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Selling through social media has always been a challenging business. However, all brands and companies we have spoken to in 2014 wanted to turn around Social Media from a brand reputation channel into a sales opportunity touchpoint.

Obviously, many of the companies had already failed. Most of them as they were either too greedy, or just not prepared to go in a bar without expecting someone to sell them a drink – or respectively, to buy their products and services after the brands or companies have posted their first status updates. In my eyes, it is time to shift expectations and start anew. 2015 should not be your year of sales disappointment, it should become your year of redefined engagement.

All companies aim for the same goal. Customer engagement is what companies are waiting, hoping and praying for. Thus, they pump out tons of content pieces from their latest brand sponsoring activities to the best white papers and case studies they can offer until they cannot find any content piece in their PR or marketing repository that has not been shared across the globe. And by accelerating the content via Facebook, Twitter and the likes, they expect their KPIs to become real.

And then, the guys from SocialFlow conducted a study in summer last year. analyzed organic posts with almost 1.5 billion social actions, showing them 99 percent of those updates on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ create little to no engagement at all. Did brands use engagement the wrong way? Where their tactics bad? And if so, what were the obstacles they did not obey?

Engagement Facebook 2014

Let’s look at the following three tactical approaches. Ask yourself if you really follow the three rules of engagement.

1. Engagement: Think cross-department, cross-partners and cross-employee

Companies still tend to be structured in silos. Internal politics, department thinking and career ambitions rule out what could be replaced by community engagement, employee engagement initiatives or engagement incentive plans. Still, most responsible managers don’t know or forget how networking inside the company and with all external forces like resellers, retailers and partners might might leverage selling opportunities.

Now, whether it is limited digital capabilities of employees or the HR department that is often only involved in social media in terms of setting up social media guidelines, companies should start realitzing that their social media manager is not the company’s silver bullet. HR and marketing need to align forces and work closer together: Culture, relationship building and trust creation is not only a sales business which got nicely highlighted by a study from Altimeter at the end of 2014.

Setting up processes, programs and platforms that work towards a common goal, that get updated by various minds, by different perspectives and manyfold views attracts the engagement of more customers. The formula is easy and proven: More brains can be in more conversations and generate more engagement.

2. Engagement: Learn cross-platform, from „free-meal“ to „pay-for-play“

Companies and brands seem to accept that social media is not a „free-meal“ any longer by investing in consulting companies to help transforming their social media efforts into social selling enagement. Facebook is leading in driving engagement to brands according to Simply Measured’s 2014 Facebook Study which analyzed the Interbrand Top 100 Global. Photos accounting for 77% of total engagement, and link usage to around 16%.

However, brands still haven’t respected the fact that getting people to listen and read their marketing messages by posting in social media is changing dramatically. When Facebook turns the algorithm into „less promotional“ this year, companies need to start redefining how they approach their customers more subtile. Even if they will be addressing them with building clusters (or circles), contacting them via the „@name“ phenomenon or hashtags. The wording needs tob e chosen carefully, and we can be sure other networks will follow that example.

Thus, the next big thing will be the shift from investing in traditional media to spending more money in platforms that leverage social networking engagement. Products like the LinkedIn Sales Navigator or individual targeting through the combination of data analytics and marketing services, will become the new sales kid in town. Where marketing and media decision makers have invested in nebulous target-group definitions, social networks can cluster target-groups by their individual interest in content, in pictures or in videos.

The only shame is that smart data (and especially media and sales data exchange) across platforms does not work yet. So, banners and sponsored posts will continue to haunt customers although they have already bought a product or service a banner promotes to them. Clever managers invest in blogger programs, in brand advocates and loyalty programs to drive up and cross-selling opportunities. Don’t just think about content!

3. Engagement: Understand cross-quality values

Just to make this clear from the beginning: A LIKE is not only a LIKE, like a Retweet, Repin or Reblog is not just a meaninglesss interaction of some lazy engagement. In many seminars, we see marketers that still center their KPIs around quantitative engagement figures while under-estimating the chances that are covered behind such „automated“ customer interactions: joy, interest, passion, emotions, etc..

Clever sales people use such quantitative engagements for profiling their customers’ habits, experiences and interests in their social CRM database or sales management systems. They value every single customer engagement as they know when to turn quantitative into qualitative engagement, and how to turn it to their favor in meetings, calls and conversations. Knowing that a client has liked a shared golf or football video can be the start of a long-term relationship and open up doors for introductions to others.

Customers will be happy if they get good content to share with their own peers and community. They appreciate the dedication (seasonal content), commitment (consistency of service) and the quality of engagement (high interactivity) that brand accounts offer to them according to a study by the Engagment Labs. Appreciation, well-understood from customers and companies, is the key to social media engagement.

Spot On!
The link between customer engagement and employee engagement was not only proven in a study by Answers Corporation lately. In many examples with customers and experts have we experienced that social media engagement is not rocket-science, however the process of setting it up plus using and finding the right technology is a challenge. Still, the rules of engagement are changing in social media, especially in social networks. Facebook is the former RSS feed, just with the difference that you can sponsor it now. Youtube is the new search engine. It’s 2015! Redefine your engagement mindset!

Email Evolution or Revolution – From Goethe to IBM Verse

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Eyes wide open, the two IBM gentlemen look at me. They sit up right. Professional. Spot On. You can feel their enthusiasm, their expectations are high. Both are social collaboration leaders at IBM, evangelizing on the #newwaytowork. That’s how the software technology company hashtags their latest journey to the revolution of the email as they call the launch of their new inbox communication software „IBM Verse“. You can tell how excited the two managers in front of me are to talk about the IBM success story. The launch seemed to have gone well so far.

On my opening question both face each other, not sure who shall answer. They are professionals in communication, they are prepared. „The term Verse is historic for communication and conversation“, replies Dr. Peter Schuett, Leader Social Business Strategy at IBM. „In times of Goethe, when carriers brought people hand-written letters, all the communication that went to and fro was written in verse.“ The answer surprised me as IBM’s development sounds like a trip in the past.

It is not. For the first time, IBM has taken a new development approach. They made their customers think about the new software solution by inviting customer to their labs, by rethinking email, and by thinking design and customer experience first, based on real customer feedback, input and inspiration. Not the cheapest way to innovate. The product development cost 100 Mio. US Dollars according to them. It has got to be effective from a customer perspective.


For a long time, IBM has been a forerunner in terms of modern workplace technology. Their „Outside the Inbox“ evangelist Luis Suarez has already been preaching for a business world with less emails. We all know the reasons why he was addressing this. People get approximately 127 emails a day. This means emails kills 28% of our daily work-time, and thus of our daily productivity.

With IBM Verse the software technology company wants to shift productivity. Creating a more effective business culture is the aim. From Ed Brill’s perspective, he is IBM’s social business transformation specialist, email should function as a transmitter. Email today should be serving notes like a private letter what Goethe used to do in hand-written form: delivering private information.

„Email is the service forever. But it needs to be a personal service.“ Dr. Peter Schuett, IBM.

Focussing on the new software solution, I brought up the question in which way this is a revolution to email communication. Ed Brill emphasizes that IBM did not want to reinvent the email. IBM wished for a better email. However, IBM wanted to create a new intersection of email, calendar, social media and analytics. That’s what they have done with IBM Verse.

When I showed a bit of my disappointment around the new solution’s capabilities in terms of being an aggregation platform for direct messaging and functionality as an inbox management system in general, Ed Brill rearranges my expectations in bringing the metaphor on suits which might all look different in design but are in a sense all alike from the amount of innovation in style and structure. And by the way, the power users of enterprise email are still personal assistants.

True, sometimes people forget where they stand in the evolution of modern communication. With their „People“ and „Analytics“ functionality, the modern way of a more personalized communication approach seems to get in that social direction in the future. At least, when we compare IBM Verse and Facebook from a superficial point of view. With IBM Verse people also move into the centre of the communication universe which is meant to map the efficiency form content to people. IBM Verse „People“ learns to show the users dynamically who is important to their communication, by hour, meeting and topic of conversation. Obviously, users can also change that and arrange it according to their premises. The world of communication gets filtered more and more.

Spot On!
IBM Verse is definitely a big evolution step in email communication. Still, they could have made it a bit more of a revolution in delivering a multi-messaging and communication management platform in my eyes which integrates direct communication via Facebook, Twitter and others.

Brill agrees that when CEOs wanted to spread the word around some company, product or people changes in the company, IBM was about to use email for that communication. Today, via IBM Connections -the internal use of their own company community platform- gets 7 Mio. accesses a month, and the CEO messages will reach (and achieve more feedback) more people via internal social messaging than via email in the past.

Nevertheless, the two gentlemen did not want to commit to a statement whether IBM Verse and IBM Connections might become one platform in the future. But the approach to one collaborative workplace platform, serves the option to have fewer apps in the future. But hey, there is hope: „Rome was not build in one day!“ summarizes Schuett in the quick Snapshot video interview in the end of our interview, and smiles.

Study: Combination of social and search campaigns upgrade performance

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According to a recent study by Marin Software, search campaigns get significantly better results when they are aligned with social campaigns. These findings are based on an analysis of $6 billion in annualized marketing campaign spendings which came from different global brands via Marin’s platform.

The study shows that integrated search campaigns that were managed in combination with social advertising campaigns achieved a 26% higher revenue per click on average compared to search campaigns which were standing on their own, so called in isolation. Furthermore, the brands got a average of 68% higher revenue per conversion through their search campaigns by combining them with social advertising campaigns.

Marin Software 2014 Search and Social Combo

Some more findings make clear that users who click on an advertiser’s search and social campaign convert faster. People who saw both campaigns showed 2x greater conversion rate on average than users who click on a search ad only. Thus, users who click on both a search and social advertisements have a conversion rate approximately 4.5x times higher on average than users who click only on a social advertisments.

Marin Software 2014 Search and Social Conversion

The revenue per click is also higher with users who click on both a search and social advertisements. They made 2x more revenue per click on average than users who click on only a search ad. Moreover, users who click on both a search and social advertisements achieved 4x more revenue per click on average than users who just click on a social ad only.

If you do you your own findings on social and search campaigns, let us know. It helps the whole community.

Report: Benchmarking digital banner performance; which formats work best

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A recent benchmark report by Pointroll based on the analysis of over 100 billion ad impressions in 2013 states that bigger banner ads perform better in digital advertising campaigns. The bigger ad formats, like the Rising Star, which was introduced by the IAB in 2012 has a 70% click-through rate (CTR) than smaller traditional banner formats.

Furthermore, the interaction rate of the Rising Star banners showed a significantly higher average interaction rate. While the Rising Star formats came in at 1.98%, traditional formats just achieved 1.08%. The video completion rate also performed better with 53.44% finishing to watch the video full length whereas the traditional formats came in almost 10% lower.

Pointroll Rising Star Performance 2014

Although in-stream ads are critically discussed on their performance at all digital events, the report shows that in-stream video ads delivered a 4.5x higher CTR on average than their Flash ads competitors. Moreover, they achieve a 2.7X higher CTR when compared with rich media ads. The later when carrying video content showed a 22% higher average CTR compared with those rich media ads without video.

Pointroll CTR by Ad format 2014

Interestingly enough, the report shows that longer videos performed better than shorter ones. The 30-second video ads got 55% more clicks on average than 15-second video ads. However, the 15-second videos had only a 6% higher completion rate than 30-second spots.

Pointroll 15 to 30 seconds video banner 2014

One of the main problems is that just 60.4% of the delivered and analyzed impressions of the report were „viewable“ according to the IAB standards. The viewability rates were different by vertical. The employment and sports media outlets delivered the highest rate (72.6%). The community publishers performed at the end of the publishers (58.4%).

The answer to meaning in B2B marketing

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For years, I have been working in the B2B industry and have looked, maybe a bit envious, at those friends who were working for BMW, MINI, Red Bull, LVHM, going to fancy parties with the guys from GQ, or those who enjoyed other sexy lifestyle moments out there in the B2C universe. When I was telling stories about B2B channel strategies, brand campaigns of mainframe providers, B2B community communication, and even if it was around web TV in the year 2000 and around brands like IBM, HP, Intel or Avaya, nobody seemed to be excited about B2B marketing the way I was. Not many eyes smiling (only with a sense of sympathy maybe). Not many questions were raised or asked. Not much fun.

Being a B2B marketer can be a challenging and somehow self-motivating task. But there are reason why I have never lost the energy in being one. And the funny thing with user-generated content and storytelling is that I do not even have to write why I do what I do (maybe good and bad that is). I just had to listen to those like-minded souls out there on Twitter, expressing their inner feelings and their drive for the fun in a B2B world.

Dough Kessler really took his approach to „The Search for Meaning in B2B Marketing“ but I would sign this for my career as well… and just have to curate his great presentation in order to make people understand my career and my B2B marketing story.

THX Dough!

The Search for Meaning in B2B Marketing from Velocity Partners

Ratings, Retweets, Repins & Likes: Automated response creators = killers of insight creation?

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twitterview-2Some years ago, I have written about the Retweet button being the „killer of positive blog comments“. Over the years in many seminars and speeches, I have stressed the point that the ROI of the social web is not about generating high quantity in „thumbs up“ on Facebook or Retweets on Twitter, or anything automated that comes along with similar meaning.

Retweets, Repins & Co. are only of value for your business, if…
– you accept those automated response generators as the pillars of your ROI system.
– you are a marketer who builds their business on proving the capability of accelerating reach rather than relevance.
– you are a brand that struggles to understood the value of building a community-centric business.
Still: Are ratings as insightful as a written comment – be it on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any other community platform out there in the social web?

Yesterday, it became public through a post on TechCrunch that Facebook is testing out a system of openly displaying star-ratings on Pages. Will this be another killer of value creation?

I definitely agree that the Facebook „Like“ has become confusing, and in some way worthless. Many users just click on the Like button out of a pure and immediate emotion, nothing sustainable, lasting or resilient. Some are expressing their solidarity with it. Some are missing the dislike button, and click the Like button.

Do those automated responses tell us what they really feel? Do they tell us what people really think? Do they help us to evaluate our position? Fair enough, these automated response creators are some word-of-mouth catalysts. Well, I admit by adding these five star ratings, there is at least some specification in the differentiation of generating feedback.

Obviously, the new rating system puts Facebook in a different position and moves it more to the likes of Foursquare, Yelp and traditional trend shop systems. Furthermore, it allows users to be more concrete in defining their opinions. Users might get better orientation in why a coffee shop or a business or restaurant deserves to be tested.

Spotted by TechCrunch

Spotted by TechCrunch

But does it really help us? What is a 4.2 with twelve votes compared to a 4.9 what two people have build up? Do we know who gave the votings, and if these people have the same interest and preferences that we have got? Doesn’t orientation get even more confusing? What will we book on travel websites when there are less and less reviews and recommendations?

Spot On!
The 3 Rs of the social customer (ratings, reviews and recommendations) might make our lives interesting and exciting for new stuff. But maybe there is too much new trends and products out there to get our heads around. Maybe a real review or recommendation will sometimes help (one positive and one negative like Amazon does it already). Still, automated feedbacks -be it stars, RTs, Likes, etc.- are the least valuable insight creation generators on a relevance scale that helps defining internal and external social web ROI.

PS: If your managers are still happy when your numbers of Likes go up, be happy and tell them nothing about this post. If not, let’s discuss further how social networks should constitute in order to deliver deeper insights in the mindset of our customers.

Study: Online forums still popular and leading community option (Infographic)

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According to a recent „2013 Social Media Survey“ by Proboards the interactive communication preferences across platforms are still heading towards forums. Although you might think that they asked their own users (which is probably right), the survey still shows the importance of forums and communities. For their results the company promoted the research toover 150 respondents via Facebook, Twitter, and the ProBoards customer support forum.

The study claims that online forums are still popular. What was interesting for me to see is that they were even preferred compared to social media platform for interactive communication. Two out of three respondents (67%) stated that forums were the social media tool they found most valuable. Obviously, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and Google+ follow but the question here could be asked whether most people realize that all these platforms are also forums if used in the right way. That LinkedIn did not figure in as a significant social media tool is in my eyes not correct as the forums there within, are very powerful and interactive, plus they generate very valueable input for managers.

„The survey results do not surprise us since platforms such as Facebook and Twitter do not give you the level of control that forums do,” said Patrick Clinger, founder and CEO of ProBoards. “Forums provide greater customization and more options…“

Forums -although we would define them as communities according to our Community Centric Strategy– offer a great way of engaged communication, and probably with better and deeper quality than any other social network. There is more information in the infographic attached…


dmexco 2013 – Flashback in Tweets & Quotes

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dmexco 2013 Women Leadership Paneldmexco 2013 is over.

The growth trend of the digital marketing show is impressive and continues to write a promising history.
Visitors: 26.300 – increase by 16% compared to 2012
Exhibitors: 742 – means over 164 exhibitors more than 2012
International attendance: approx. 25% of visitors and of exhibitors
Satisfied visitors: More than 80% were happy with the event and exhibitor presentations

Future of Digital Marketing
1. „The era of digital marketing is over. It’s almost dead. It’s now just brand building.“ Marc Pritchard, P&G http://bit.ly/15eHlWR (Tweet by Armando Alves) – Watch Closing Keynote Day 1

Future of the Moment
2. „Twitter is a reflection of our individual and shared moments, which is why it gives all of us, including brands, the opportunity to engage and to act. In short, it allows us to be in the moment.“ (Quote by Katie Stanton) – Watch Closing Keynote Day 2

Future of Programmatic
3. „The client defines the value, not the agency. #Programmatic helps us capture the value,“ says Arun Kumar“ (Tweet by IPG Mediabrands) – Watch Programmatic vs. Problematic

Future of Content Marketing
4. „Great discussion on the role and meaning of content marketing in the Debate Hall of @dmexco“ (Tweet by Roza Tsvetkova) – Watch Content Marketing Debate

5. Future of Creativity & Innovation
„Adding value is to make the complex simple“ says Laura Desmond. I agree! #dmexco“ – (Tweet by Simon Harris) – Watch Laura Desmond!

In another year as a co-moderator of the dmexco conference program, it was a great honor to moderate
the „Women Leadership Table“ for the second time – this year Denise Colella (Maxifier), Noelia Fernández Arroyo (Yahoo!), Anne Frisbie (InMobi) and Ashley Swartz (Furious Minds) attended. Thank you ladies, you were smart and know why analytics, mobile, social, and content seed the future of brand success.

The moderation of the panel „Realtime Branding“ (Social Media) was a great pleasure for me. Here we had Sarah Wood (Unruly), Surjit Chana (IBM), Brian Goffman (LinkedIn), Holger Luedorff (Foursquare) and Markus Spiering (Flickr/Yahoo!) at the dmexco bar table. Learnings? If there was a network with a limitation of 50 words, they would be able to manage it perfectly. Just watch the debate until the end to get their expert view on what you as a marketer should invest in to leverage social media.

Spot On!
The challenges for brand marketers haven’t changed massively since 2012. Big Data is still rocking and not yet fully understood in companies in terms of how to make use of it in the future. In case they are seeing the benefit, they still need to hope for a value chain between publishers, agencies and the LUMAscape players to cope with the evolution of adtechnology – and some will still try to find an agency to manage the data for them. Marketing and cloud services might become a new opportunity to analyse and measure the data for a clever strategy between going to market with long-term „content strategy“ (community, monitoring, pull) and the short-term „campaign“ (banner, SEO, push) approach – whether in social commerce, mobile or social. The digital future will remain exciting – stay tuned.

Looking forward to the next dmexco in Cologne, September, 10. and 11., 2014 – CU there!

Brand advocate or Influencer: Are you driving on the streets of loyalty?

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In many seminars there is a common opinion: Brand advocates and social media influencers are cast in the same mold. They are not! They are completely different kind of personalities. However, this does not say that they cannot change their roles from brands to brands. Still, the question is whether they might suddenly become both in the future: influencer and advocate. We have shared our thoughts a while ago…

So, how can advocates and influencers be defined (backed up by an infographic from Zuberance and Convince and Convert below)?

Advocates are customers of brands. They are not heading for money or incentives that a brand or company might pay them for going out and holding up signs „I love this brand!“. In fact, it is just the other way round: They often pay brands more than they have to. Personal persuasion, individual enthusiasm and emotions the brand creates lead them to recommend products to their fellows, friends and fans without any reward. These people are just happy with a brand or product. The brand has satisfied their needs and desires which let’s them engage in discussion they are not really part of. These people are actually looking for engagement around the brand and might even start conversations that foster new brand approaches, or even design new product concepts.

Influencers were -well, in the days before social media- people that were wearing logos on shirts, were used as testimonials or stood in front of a camera and talked about a product or service as a client case (things they often had no clue about). Nowadays, there is a new type of influencers coming up that gets paid by blogging or social media monetization platforms, and in the end from brands and companies. These bloggers or social media active people write or talk online about brands predominantly as they get paid for promoting the brand or product. In most cases, these bloggers have a great community of people that build an attractive audience (whether as of reach or relevance) for the brand or company – maybe simply to increase the influencer base or to spread the word (word-of-mouth) around the brand.

The main difference between the two?

Advocacy goes deeper. Advocacy is emotion-driven. Advocacy is loyalty. Loyalty is commitment. Loyalty is passion. Loyalty let’s forget the rules of logic, of facts, of the rational. Advocates drive on the streets of loyalty and breath it’s air.

A recent study by Ogilvy claims that social media influencers don’t use these streets of advocacy and passion, the streets of the brands they follow. The study makes cleat that most „advocates“ -in the above definition probably more influencers- mentioned product features and not emotions. Only 9% of brands were lucky to facing greater than 50% of brand advocacy. And, „advocacy“ posts constituted only 15% of social mentions.

How to build a global passion brand: Insights from the 2013 Social@Ogilvy Brand Advocacy Study from Social@Ogilvy

Marketers need to understand the value of brand advocacy. Advocats are the elite of your brand fans, and marketers that do not identify those advocates will leave out the opportunity to spend marketing budgets more wisely:

„Brands that do not generate substantial advocacy will need to pay more for reach and consequently have costs substantially higher than those brands that drive advocacy… this advantage could make the difference between a company with outstanding shareholder returns and one that fails to perform.“


Hey marketers, just think about yourself: Would you tattoo yourself with the brand you love, like i.e. many Harley Davidson fans? Let us know…

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