Nicknamed the “Aya-Cola” by the advertising executives he terrorized in the 1980s, Sergio Zyman helped reinvent the conservative Coca-Cola during two roller-coaster reigns as the company’s head of marketing (a total of 13 years). He oversaw the New Coke debacle as well as the successful launch of the Coke Classic and Fruitopia lines.

In his book, The End of Marketing as We Know It, the flamboyant Zyman, a native of Mexico, reminds marketers that their goal is simple: “to get more people to buy more stuff.”

Traditional “old-style, one-size-fits-all marketing,” insists Zyman, “is as dead as Elvis.” His disciples will find the Internet a boon to their efforts to put his replacement strategies to work. “Marketing has to be about creating value in the minds of consumers,” he writes. “This means building brands by identifying the common ground between a consumer and a product or service.” Of particular importance is providing information to consumers to help them make buying decisions, a task to which the Web is ideally suited.

But Net-based businesses are falling into some of the same traps as traditional businesses. Attempting to compete on price rather than service or other intangibles, for example, is a dead-end street, he insists. “Even if your product isn’t that different, better, or special, it’s the job of the marketer to make people think that it’s different, better, and special,” he says.

What wisdom does he have to pass along to a new generation of digital marketeers? Business 2.0 caught up with the jet-setting Zyman, now a consultant to Fortune 500 companies to find out. An avid devotee of the Net, Zyman recently launched his own site (www.teomawki.com, an acronym of his book title), where readers can post comments as well as buy “Z”-bilia hats, T-shirts, even fortune cookies with his marketing principles inside.

“It’s a place where people can come in and give me their opinions. Tell me my principles are baloney, whatever,” he says. How else would a marketing guru who likes to constantly reinvent both himself and his profession establish a brand?

Trust and permission marketing

Anand Jagannathan is waiting for a consumer revolt. “There’s going to be a backlash,” says the CEO and co-founder of permission-marketing startup Responsys.com, based in Palo Alto, California.

To him, e-commerce sales are all about trust and online marketers have alienated consumers for years by sometimes secretly trailing them as they surf the Web, or bombarding them with spam. “If a consumer has privacy concerns, it breaks the relationship,” he says. “If you capture consumers email on the fly just because they visit your Website, they don’t like it.”

We also helped an online business that offers free career and personality tests protect its customers and provide the best possible visitor experience when it comes to the safety of their visitors’ information system. Quite a challenge, but we did a great job – the company (and their visitors) were and are very satisfied.

Jagannathan is betting that the rest of the online population agrees. That’s why Responsys, along with numerous other online marketing concerns, including Bigfoot, Annuncio, Connectify (recently purchased by Kana Communications), MessageMedia, and Rubric (recently acquired by Broadbase Software), are pushing so-called permission marketing.

Popularized within the last year, it is the art of asking consumers if they would like to receive a targeted email ad, promotion, or message before it appears in their inbox. Since it first caught on, it has become an online fad; Responsys clients alone number dozens of companies, including eToys, Chipshot, Network Associates, Virgin Megastore, Lands’ End, and VeriSign.

Asking permission to sell, of course, is as old as the door-to-door salesman. But when commerce turned cyber, the trusted salesman’s face behind a screen door morphed into anonymous email blasts. For many commerce sites, this proved a boon – greater reach and at a cheaper price. But consumers are already wary of such practices – and as Jagannathan fears, the worst may yet to come.

Consumers wise up

Like it or not, there is a fundamental power shift taking place in the online marketing world. Consumers are learning that they hold the power to choose what they want to see, when, and how often. While the battle isn’t over, and many companies are still playing unfair by collecting email addresses and then blasting consumers with unwanted or excessive email, analysts believe that those companies will end up dying by their own sword.