What Can Inca Mythology Teach Us About Personal Branding?
I volunteer with a local school and read once a week with the children. This weekly activity has become a great source of inspiration. The children are so creative and their unrestricted outlook is infectious (so are their colds ‘sniff sniff’). I recently read a book called The Incredible Incas (Horrible History) by Terry Deary. I was totally engrossed.
It turns out that the Incas were personal branding specialists.
The Incas had no written language to document their history; instead, they were expert storytellers. As you can imagine, some of their history may have been embellished along the way, in order to justify their superiority to themselves. Nonetheless, the Inca people learned of their forefathers through the re-telling of these stories, in particular the stories of the eight lords. Once you get past the pillage and plundering, sacrifice and incest, it is apparent that early Inca tribe people were masters at selling themselves and their ideas.
The story goes that the first Incan Leader, Manco Capo, manifested from a cave with three brothers (whom he killed) and a sister, Mama Ocllo, whom he married. He was ruthless and set out to conquer the land and rule the people. Whilst he was married to his sister, Incan leaders had many women and fathered many children. However, Mama Ocllo was determined her son Sinchi Roca would one day become ruler.
Mama Ocllo came up with something quite ingenious. The Incas worshiped the sun as an ancestral father and held many rituals in its honor. Gold was believed to be the sweat of the sun, which held powers, and luckily (as the wife of an Incan leader) Mama Ocllo had a wicked stash of gold. She adorned her son in gold, hid him in a cave on top of a mountain, and told the people the next king (born of the Sun) would imminently descend the mountain. The people were in awe of the rumors and awaited the new king. Sinchi Roca came down the mountain on a sunny day glittering as his gold shone and shimmered in the sunlight. Mama Ocllo had nailed it and Sinchi Roca became king. It also turned out that Sinchi was generous, resourceful and introduced new tribal practices to benefit the land and the people.
So what am I getting at? Ultimately we need to stand out; it is our personal stories that resonate with others and make us interesting. We sell ourselves through our stories and we use our experience to give our ideas credibility.
To develop your personal brand, you need to take the important points about you that give significance to your ideas, and create a persona that represents your approach. Unlike 13th Century leaders, we have awareness, technology and media to help us tell our stories and create buzz. I advise you to shy away from murder, deceit and divinity as was so prevalent in Incan leadership. However, in the 21st Century we have a global population of over 7 billion people to compete with. So like Mama Ocllo we need to be creative with our resources and campaigns in order to get noticed. We can then gain leverage within our communities and influence them with our ideas. We can establish a personal brand just as powerfully as the Incans.