I recently saw an ad trying to drum up workers for Amazon warehouses. The headline on the ad said, “Work close to home.” I thought to myself, “There is an advertising agency laboring to polish a turd.” The ad’s reasoning was that the primary benefit that Amazon can offer workers is that it might be in their neighborhood. The subtext is, “Work like a dog, for peanuts, in a job with no future, but the commute is short.”

A common story around growth is that you just need marketing to get the word out. While not entirely false, it’s not true either.

Marketing cannot create demand. It can only amplify it.

Marketing always stands on the shoulders of a value proposition. An excellent value proposition will have inherent marketability and spread through word of mouth. But a weak value proposition will get poor returns even on deep investments. You can’t buy customers.

If you get new customers for a product or service, then you have some signal that marketing could amplify. The questions then concern attention. Would marketing expand the attention of potential buyers? What would be the net considering your rate of acquisition? If you get a new customer once a week, and 80% of the possible buyers in a market don’t know about you, expanding attention should increase customers up to 8x.

At some threshold, the math doesn’t look great and it’s an indicator that you need to work on your value proposition and its expression as an offer.

When Amazon’s pool of labor dries up, their going to have to come up with something people actually want. For example, something closer to the city ads I see offering a $7,000 starting bonus and $30/hour to drive a bus. An offer like that doesn’t need much amplification to saturate the market.

Featured image is Heracles Obtaining the Belt of Hyppolita, Queen of the Amazons. By Nikolaus Knüpfer. Used under public domain.