The Great Wall. Who came up with that name?
I guess because I’ve worked in the marketing world for most of my career, I tend to think about the process for how things come about. What was the thinking behind a product? Who is it for? What is the benefit? What was the thinking behind the name? And who in a room full of advertising people, thought that ad was a good idea?
I just can’t help myself. As we made our way from Beijing, heading about 60 miles northeast, on our way to one of the wonders of the world my mind started racing about The Great Wall of China.
Crystal, our guide, gave us a brief history explaining that it began as several individual walls for different states and became the Great Wall during the Qin Dynasty. Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China (220-206 BC) had the walls joined together to fend off the Huns in the north. So there was the thinking behind the product, the why and the benefit.
Crystal shared with us some interesting facts like hundreds of thousands, if not millions of workers died while building the Wall. Some refer to it as the world’s largest cemetery as the deceased were just buried into the Wall by co-workers and the construction continued. Now that’s a tough work environment.
We arrived at the parking lot and made our way through a street of vendors selling everything from fruits, incense, Mongolian warrior hats and t-shirts with Obama’s face inset into the popular Chairman Mao image.
The vendors are aggressive in their selling approach. They call you out “lady, lady” and if you don’t respond they come right up in front of you until you address them with a nod or a wave of the hand. I guess I stood out as a foreign tourist needing a hat in the shape of panda bear.
We hiked up to the top of a steep hill to purchase our ticket for the gondola ride to the Wall. The gondola ride is really quite beautiful if you can keep your mind off the fact that you are dangling by a single cable over an incredibly steep mountain and that you actually hate rides and as an adult, cried at the anticipation of the drop on Splash Mountain at Disneyland.
The pollution was incredibly bad the day we visited. The air quality index was showing a rating of 317, listed as extremely hazardous with a warning to stay inside – but hey, it’s The Great Wall.
As we made our way to the top, Crystal continued to share facts. The wall is just over 5000 miles long and of course, sections of it have been remodeled or reconstructed over the years. Aside from Mutianyu, the section we were visiting, there are 2 other areas of the wall that are open to the public.
Crystal shared with us that the Wall on the China side is known as the inner wall, the side to Mongolia is known as the outer wall. It’s incredible to hear and see the thinking behind the architecture and to see the engineering that went into construction.
We learned that the Wall was built with an ever so slight slope with a “gutter” running along the inner side so that the rain would drain to the China side where the villagers would collect the water. Brilliant.
We also learned that the cutouts seen along the wall were designed at an angle so the soldiers could look down onto Mongolia and shoot arrows through with no chance they would be seen or fired upon. Genius.
We walked for about an hour on The Wall. The images are really deceiving as the terrain is incredibly steep. The stones are uneven and steps are made for small feet.
Greg and I were taken by the “greatness” of it all. The Wall could be seen for miles. The craftsmanship and the attention to detail were incredible.
A guiding principle for marketing is to evoke emotion with the name, the look and the feel of a brand. I guess that’s what Emperor Qin and his marketing team had in mind when they came up with the name, The Great Wall.