The culture of dissatisfaction

Las Vegas is an epicenter of a trend that is accelerating through every market and community on Earth.

A rapid increase in dissatisfaction.

If you don’t have enough money, you can fix it by gambling. It’s okay to be dissatisfied with your job and your boss and your income, because someone in Vegas has more, and they got it the easy way. I don’t think it’s an accident that we’ve got record PowerBall prizes and record PowerBall sales.

If you don’t have a beautiful, thin, buxom wife with flaxen hair (or an intelligent, tall, dark-haired husband with washboard abs), it’s obvious that you can find someone better at the strip clubs and revues in town.

Porn and its variants (tech-porn included) often trains people to be dissatisfied. Apple hasn’t even shipped my MacBook yet, and they already upgraded it for free–but I’m still dissatisfied (now there’s an even faster option!).

We’re using electronic media to spread this benchmarking message far and wide. Because there’s always a company offering a better or cheaper or faster product, or a person who’s more clever than Oprah or cuter than Tyra, it’s easy to shop around, to demand more, to be constantly dissatisfied.

Every day I get angry email (not angry with me, fortunately, but angry nonetheless) from consumers of all kinds complaining about perceived slights in customer service. Looked at with a clear eye, most of these complaints don’t make a lot of sense. Yes, the correspondence could have been a lot more thoughtful, but these are organizations that are largely doing a great job, at a great price. Doesn’t matter. Someone else is often more, faster, better, now.

The problem with this emerging culture, aside from the fact that we’re unhappy all the time, is that it doesn’t give marketers a chance to build products for the long haul, to invest in the processes and products and even operating systems that pay off over time. The problem is that when brands fizz out so fast, it’s hard to invest in anything except building the next hot brand.

Is there an answer?

Talk to people who live in Vegas and you’ll discover that most of the hard-working folks who have been here more than a decade (the cab drivers and the doctors and the rest) aren’t so swayed by the billboards and the promises. Instead, they embrace the qualities that come from relationships. A relationship with a front-line worker (ask for "Bob")  or a relationship with a provider or an organization that has come through for them.

It seems to me that insulation from discontent comes from building a relationship. From real people. Relationships that make us feel counted upon, respected, trusted and valued cut through the ennui of dissatisfaction. We got ourselves into this mess by acting like smart marketers, and as marketers we can get out of it by acting like people.