Nikola Tesla – An Unexploited Croatian BrandTesla, as a brand, has a great story and a universal message. The whole world has experienced the benefits of his efforts and inventions.
On the other hand, he symbolizes the dream of success of a man from a small, far away country in powerful and great America. Also, he was the victim of greed, profit and adversaries seeking fame, which makes him an idealist, dedicated to science and the well-being of the world. Finally, there is something mystical connected to him as a person. His inventions and scientific experiments are also mystical, and many things concerning his private life still remain unresolved. All of these are wonderful preconditions for a wonderful global brand!
When we talk about the state as a brand, we think about sub-brands that can symbolize that state. They can be national symbols, recognizable buildings and natural beauties, but also, even to a greater extent, they can be individuals, that is, national greats, who in a special way present their countries, which are recognized through them throughout the world. In such a manner, we identify Brits with Churchill, Russians with Stalin, Germans with Goethe, Austrians with Mozart, Italians with Dante.
In Croatia, we have the problem of a somewhat undefined national identity, which is true for the state brand as well. On the other hand, there is so much that can be used in a proper manner to symbolize the Croatian brand – from natural beauties and cultural sites to national greats of global importance. However, it seems to me that, due to the numerous possibilities and a lack of strategy, we cannot achieve a consensus on what would be the most exceptional, on which a long-term, high quality promotional campaign of Croatia throughout the world could be built. And we are aware that, when branding, we cannot present ten stories about the country at the same time since, in that case, people in far off countries, overwhelmed by an overabundance of information, messages and advertisements, usually end up not remembering anything at all. For this reason, we have to decide who or what best symbolizes our country and nation, and that is, at the same time, attractive to other nations and cultures.
When we speak about Croatian national greats, unfortunately, there is no consensus about which of these 'sons' of our country would best represent Croatia in the world. Looking at various surveys from the past decade, various names have appeared – from Josip Broz Tito and Franjo Tuđman to Nikola Tesla, Ruđer Bošković, Marko Marullić, Ivan Brlić Mažuranic, Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac, Miroslav Krleža…
However, it is nevertheless interesting that, in all of those surveys, regardless of the methodology and sample, Nikola Tesla appears as a constant. This would indicate that there is somewhat of a consensus concerning Nikola Tesla, and he definitely belongs to the group of three most recognizable individuals of our country. However, the problem with Tesla is that he is insufficiently associated with Croatia. For instance, Americans are familiar with the name Nikola Tesla, but his origins are unknown to them and it is something that they must still discover. On the other hand, there is the problem that he is being 'claimed' at the same time by Croatia and Serbia.
A friend who is completing his postgraduate studies in Sweden told me an interesting anecdote. At the end of the semester, attendants coming from all corners of the world had the task of presenting their countries. What was interesting was that when colleagues from Serbia held their presentation, which took place before Croatia's, they underlined Nikola Tesla as their national great. Some time later, it was time for the group from Croatia, who, after the story of a thousand islands, again underlined Tesla as one of their national greats. Colleagues from other countries were mostly confused, and some even considered the Croatians as plagiarists. In the extended discussion, when the background and facts were revealed, they all realized that Tesla's life was actually a great story that connects.
Tesla, born and raised in the region of Lika, Croatia, but of Serbian descent, equally valued his nation and his homeland. In this manner, he became a man who connects Croatia, Serbia and the USA, enriching all three nations and yet none can claim him exclusively their own because he was a cosmopolitan. The fact remains that Croatia has the greatest possibilities of "exploiting" his character and accomplishments, because he was born in Croatia. His (renovated) house of birth still exists. We know that he always very gladly returned to Croatia. And finally, we know that he offered to the Assembly of the City of Zagreb the illumination of Croatia's metropolis before any other European city… Of course, the problem was politicians lacking vision, who kindly rejected this generous gesture. Consequently, Croatia has a wonderful story that it can tell the world about Nikola Tesla, and, therefore, about itself. However, too little has been done on this topic. Look at what the Germans have done in order to present Goethe to the world or the Austrians with Mozart! Of course, each great individual requires a different approach, but once again I must underline that Tesla as a brand has a wonderful story and a universal message.
The whole world experienced the benefits of his efforts and inventions. On the other hand, he symbolizes the dream of success of a man from a small, far away country in powerful and great America. Also, he was the victim of greed, profit and adversaries seeking fame, which makes him an idealist dedicated to science and the well-being of the world. He showed that you could love your country and your nation at the same time. Finally, there is something mystical connected to him as a person. His inventions and scientific experiments are also mystical, and many things concerning his private life still remain unresolved. All of these are wonderful preconditions for a wonderful story and, accordingly, a great brand!
People love great individuals who stir emotions and have an interesting story. In these stories, there is always a good side and a bad side. We know that Tesla was a good man, whom other people took advantage of, stealing his ideas. If this story were told properly – through films, festivals, products, events, museums, tourist attractions… - and if, in doing so, Croatia would be positioned as the country of birth of this genius, this would certainly intrigue the global audience, and would position Croatia as a country of ideas and innovations, a country of wise, dedicated and versatile individuals. As things stand, without a clear vision and investments, Croatia will remain only a fact that is connected to Tesla, while someone else will cash in on his brand.