In 2009 I spent a month in Peru. For a tourist in Peru the most interesting places to visit are Cuzco and the Inca sacred valley.
The sacred valley is littered with spectacular Inca ruins built in seemingly impossible places. I took the photo below in August 2009. It is a small ruined building high above the town of Ollantaytambo.
The inside of the building looks like this.
Until this weekend I thought this was simply an interesting ruin built in a strange and seemingly impossible place. Then last weekend I watched a BBC documentary by Dr Jago Cooper.
Dr Cooper explained how these buildings, known as ‘qolqas’, were in fact part of a vast network of storehouses. Excess food would be dried and stored here, helping to ward off drought. You can see from the second picture how the room would have been well ventilated.
The Inca conquered huge regions of the Andes in a short 150 year period. They did this by moving in to a new region with a spectacular army. Messengers would be sent to the leaders of the existing incumbents offering a choice.
It was explained to the leaders of the new region that the Inca would help them eliminate famine. They would be allowed to keep their religion, their way of life, and simply pay certain taxes to the Inca.
Or alternatively they could be destroyed and flayed alive.
Many people in the Andes seemed to have selected the first option.
War to the Inca was inefficient and a last resort. Why kill everyone when you can sell them a dream and employ them in building your empire?
The Inca empire expanded quickly because they knew how to sell the benefits of the empire to the people around them. They understood the landscape, and understood what the people around them wanted. They knew how to dangle the carrot before they waved the stick. The storehouses I saw were very much a part of that carrot.
The language of marketing is very much that of the stick. We talk about squeeze pages, campaigns and trip wires. I think instead we should be figuring out what our customers actually want and dangling better carrots.
I increasingly think that the primary marketing problem of 2016 isn’t that you need to know AdWords better, or Facebook better. The primary problem is self-awareness. Knowing what value you really bring to your customers and knowing how to communicate it to them.