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In May I had the pleasure of attending Brandworks University 2006, held in Madison, Wis., and hosted, as it is every year, by Lindsay, Stone & Briggs. The theme of this year's conference: "How to Create Brand Fanatics Now That the Consumer Is in Control." The two-day symposium brought together some of the brightest minds in marketing-professors and thought leaders, as well as marketing practitioners from companies such as Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo and Chivas-to discuss one of the most critical issues facing marketers today: the role of technology in consumer control, the definition of a valuable customer, and what marketers need to do to regain control of profits and branding given that the consumer is the new boss. The theme of this month's issue of Point is consumer focus, and I invited several of this year's Brandworks presenters to pen original articles for this issue. In doing so, they were able to delve further into their areas of expertise, offering real-world examples and best practices of marketing in a consumer-controlled world.

Columbia Professor Emeritus Larry Selden and his wife, Yoko S. Selden, who together lead a business-consulting practice called Selden & Associates, explain how companies must create great brands-by first shifting from a product-centric to a customer-centric focus. Church of the Customer blog authors Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba outline the six tenets of customer evangelism. And Thinktopia CEO Patrick Hanlon details how marketers can build a community around their brands-and keep consumers coming back for more.

This month's cover subject, Yahoo's Cammie Dunaway, also was a presenter at the conference. In "Winning Hearts and Minds," on P. 10, she shares her view of consumer control and how Yahoo is crafting products, services, messages and a brand with consumer insights at the core.

How are you putting consumers at the core of your brand? Let me know. Send me an e-mail at point@crain.com.
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