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For the third year now, this publication's editors and reporters have gone through the laborious, and rewarding, process of identifying and profiling Advertising Age's Marketing 100-the people behind the brands, as we put it.

Laborious because it is 100 successful brands or branded services to which we apply our investigative powers to undercover the right individual to salute; rewarding because, in almost all cases, what we find out about the perceived marketing success is better, more insightful and interesting than we imagined.

Uncovering the individual ideas behind each brand is certainly worth the work. For example, after much discussion of the popularity of fresh bananas on cereal, and the problems in duplicating that in a packaged food, Kraft General Foods' Margo Lowry thought that maybe the answer was in borrowing the taste of banana nut bread rather than the taste of fresh fruit.

Or La Quinta Inns' John Kaegi, who decided to let the sales people who frequent his chain do "what they do best" and sell La Quinta in the chain's advertising. Or Hewlett-Packard's Dick Snyder, who paid close attention to those warranty cards consumers fill out and send in, and redirected the marketing efforts for HP's DeskJet printers to the home market.

"Sleepy" brands like Sominex are awakened by Lisa Mason's use of new media such as infomercials. New packaging is behind Susan McWhorter's story on Coca-Cola and Julie Greene's story at Motorola and Robert Clark's story for Better'n Eggs.

The Marketing 100 is fast becoming a July 4th-weekend tradition in the marketing world, one that also extends to the fall with the New York luncheon held in their honor in September.

These stories are so good they're worth repeating.

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