Meta link: This is a link to Stephen Colbert’s dissection of the new Domino’s ad campaign. It does a perfect job embracing the combination of “Wait, are they idiots for admitting their pizza was disgusting?!” and “Wait, are they geniuses for admitting their pizza used to be disgusting” that came with my first viewing of the ad.

The premise, that Domino’s has listened to the customer and realized that maybe their pizza tastes (kindly) like ketchup-covered cardboard and has made changes to their primary product.

This whole campaign is a perfect prism to view so many changes and issues at play in American business today. Â Here’s a sample.

1) A successful business isn’t one with a good product (pizza), but with a well-designed delivery system. (It’s not the product, but the business that we wrap around it that matters).

2) Even ketchup-covered cardboard, properly positioned and marketed, can be a billion-dollar industry (you hear that Twitter-haters who think that they will never make any money?).

3) This is an age of contrition. Financial, automotive and insurance failures have shown us that no one will take you seriously without an act of contrition. It doesn’t matter if it’s real or matters a lick (like driving “regular” cars to DC from Detroit or decreasing year-end bonuses by 10%), if there isn’t a CEO begging for forgiveness for past transgressions, we don’t want to hear it (and they said we couldn’t learn anything from the Japanese!  Though, I would rather we gotten better at manufacturing than at public opinion/political kabuki theater).

4) This is the end (for now) of the 20th-century model of marketing (who’s triumph remains Crazy Eddie’s shouting commercials). Now, marketers have to show how they actually listen to their audience (instead of just shouting at them) before pitching their horrible products at us. This is what the blogoshpere/web 2.0 hath wrought: a nod to the consumer (albeit a small one).

5) This may be the beginning of the end of “Us v. Them” marketing. Think of it. When was the last time you saw a commercial or marketing campaign who’s underlying principle is that the people pitching the product actually use the product? I’m not talking about paid spokespeople or testimonials, which still are designed, filmed and produced by people who never use that product, but about people who really like the product. Do you think that Jeff Bridges drives around California in a Hyundai? Or Kevin Spacey in a Honda? Aside from the Tony Stewart Actually Likes Whoppers campaign, this is the first where I get a sense that these people might actually eat pizza.

And this is how the marketing revolution begins, people. With an end to the lies. Sure, we’ve long ago stopped the bald-faced “Four out of five doctors smoke Lucky Strike” stuff, but we still live in a world of an underlying lie: that “Us” the marketers are different from “Them” the consumer.

In other circles, there’s the idea of rapport, that we build trust with people with whom we feel some connection. In the marketing world, this is quickly turned into “mass rapport” (which is why likable Jeff Bridges tells us about Korean cars made in Alabama and we listen: we liked his movies, so we must like him so let’s listen to what he’s got to say). But we are coming to the end of that idea as we all understand how easily it is to get Florence Henderson and Mr. T and Ewan McGregor and Keira Knightly and even dead John Wayne to say nice things about our products.

What we should be searching for is real rapport: you will like us because we are like you and we like this thing. Not a picture of someone who likes this product and pretends to be like you, but produced and developed by real people with real passion for the Whopper and the Diet Pepsi and SmartCar and Geico insurance. That rapport can only be faked for a little while, so maybe we can find real fans to build these commercials (And hey, the internet is letting people build those commercials for you: go look at youtube!).

Heck, let’s get crazy and actually BE the people who like these products and try telling the world about them.

I know. Crazy, right?