Why are we Ashamed of Tesla, Penkala and Other Croatian Innovators?

Total Croatia News

In a world of lazy journalism, there are still some great pages to follow in Croatian, and few are better than the innovative tourism portal HR Turizam, run by Goran Rihelj, who is not afraid to ask some thought-provoking questions. 

{Photo credit – Foto: www.duckass.net / Lana’s DuckAss)

Yesterday, January 23, 2017 marked 111 years since Eduard Slavoljub Penkala patented the first mechanical pen in the world, the Croatian engineer and inventor of Polish-Dutch origins is one of the most significant inventors from the beginning of the 20th century. Not long after the first mechanical pen was invented, he patented the first fountain pen with solid ink. After a line of patents, in 1911 Penkala opened a factory in Zagreb’s Branimirova Street, which at one point had around 800 employees and exported to 70 countries. In the period from 1912 to 1926 it was one of the largest factories of writing utensils, Hrturizam.hr wrote on January 24, 2017.

But, I wonder: why are we ashamed of our Croatian greats? Why don’t we want to or know how to use them for our tourism promotion? Why isn’t a fountain pen a Croatian souvenir? Why doesn’t the entire world know the mechanical pen was invented in Croatia? The fountain pen is used by people around the world daily, imagine branding that and whenever someone grabs a fountain pen, they think of Croatia. That’s marketing and branding!

Croatian inventors made great discoveries, ones the world must know came from Croatia, especially when talking about Croatia as a tourism destination.

When we were entering the European Union in 2013, at an official ceremony in Zagreb we failed to present ourselves when all of Europe and the world was looking at us. A once in a lifetime opportunity when the world media carried the picture, video ad story from Croatia. Did we use it? Unfortunately not. We missed a large opportunity and regardless of the sense of pride, I felt shame, as if Europe took pity on us and let us into the EU. “It is sad how our state institutions have no knowledge or sense of utilising the Croatian creative industry, primarily popular culture in creating an image of Croatia in the world,” pointed out Božo Skoko in his last book “What Croats are Like,” which I heartily recommend to all as this book should be mandatory for all citizens of Croatia.

“Maybe some of the officials watched the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London, a textbook example of how to sell in an attractive way one’s own culture and history,” Skoko writes. Truly, the English managed to sell and brand rain, and we don’t know how to sell the sun and sea. And yes, the whole world knows of Stonehenge, visited by millions of tourists annually, but not even Croats know of the oldest calendar in Europe, Orion found in Vinkovci, older than Stonehenge by 350 years and much more advanced in terms of civilization. Without downplaying Stonehenge as a site, but comparing Orion to it is more than unnecessary.

And then I wonder: why wasn’t that one of the messages we should have sent during our entrance to the EU? Why wasn’t Orion a souvenir or gift of all our delegations. We have plenty to be proud of.

“Comparing how things are done and envisioned in the 21st century I refer to the UK economic campaign led by Conrad Bird, advisor to the British Prime Minister and director of the GREAT company: “The entire campaign began in 2012, but the planning began a year before. We knew 2012 will be a great year for the UK. We had the Olympic Games and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, knew there would be four billion people watching Britain on television. At the same time we had a financial crisis and knew we had to do everything to fix the situation. We considered using the potential of the Olympics and the desire for a rise in standard and opening of new jobs united under a unique campaign which would attract tourists, investors and students, but also ease export for British companies,” stated Conrad Bird and added how Croatia can offer much more than tourism, but the world doesn’t know this.

Back to our Croatian greats and innovators… Why haven’t we pointed out our greatest achievements, our innovators, our cultural and civilizational heritage? Unfortunately, we missed another opportunity. As if we are ashamed of ourselves, our history and our identity. We are small because we want to be small, we are small as we behave like we are small, we are small as we don’t respect ourselves – and logically others see us as small. The situation is the same today.

Why doesn’t the world know about Tesla, Penkala, Faust Vrančić and all our other innovators to whom we are in debt? Why doesn’t the world know Croats are responsible for the parachute, torpedo, neck tie, Dalmatians, zeppelin, rocket engine, ship compass… Where are the theme museums for each of them? Where are theme evenings celebrating their achievements? That’s how the tourism season is extended!

We have the oldest calendar and settlement in Europe, first European script, army, serial production of metal in the world, first left and right shoe… the Vučedol civilisation in the area of Vukovar and Vinkovci set the first foundation of European civilisation!

There is not better touristic motivation to tour Europe than to arrive to the cradle of European civilisation! No one is aware of this, not even Croats. Who’s to blame? We are, as we don’t respect ourselves, so others won’t respect us either. There lies the answer why we entered the EU as we did, viewed as Balkan folk. The Balkan folk who are the cradle of European civilisation.

A Croatian Tourism Board inquiry on the strength of the Croatian tourism brand in 2013 showed its strength inadequate. Of the total potential of 258 million people, 43 percent of them were not aware of the Croatian tourism offer. It is estimated the Croatian tourism offer was recognised by 147 million people, but 55% of them did not understand the offer or the brand. Newer inquiries in 2016 show a growth by 16 percent. But is that enough? What is the image and perception of Croatia in Europe? Are we recognised by anything other than the sun and sea and Dubrovnik? Is that all we can offer?

How to stand out in a sea full of fish? How do the small make it surrounded by the big? We have plenty to be proud of, boast and highlight. We have true and authentic stories which make us different. We have such significant stories, inventions, sports players, musicians… which we must be proud of and promote, if not for ourselves than as a memory of them and their achievements. Shouldn’t the Croatian Tourism Board brand Croatia through these elements? We have the holy grail in the world of marketing and branding, not one, but hundreds. Yes, we are full of life but the world doesn’t know it. Imagine what others would do from just one of those stories, let alone many of them.

In the world of marketing when you are small, you have to be different, special, quick, creative and innovative, while we are still branding ourselves as the “brown cow,” as Seth Godin would say, a marketing guru and author of the world bestseller Blue Cow. “It’s simple: you have to be special, different, remarkable. You have to have something others don’t. You have to inspire, but you can only do this if you are inspired yourself. Something remarkable needs to be talked about, noticed. It’s an exceptional thing. New. Interesting. That’s the blue cow. Boring is invisible. Boring is a brown cow,” says Seth Godin.

It is fascinating how hard we try to be the brown cow, while everything we have can be a synonym of a blue cow. We have all the predispositions from innovation, creativity, success, beauty and diversity – all of it. What else do we want and need? We have 1.244 islands, islets, reefs and just as any incredible authentic, unique and true stories. We are the tourism blue cow of Europe, at least we should be, but it’s all up to us. I still wonder why we don’t use all these incredible facts. The answer is still the same – we are ashamed of our history, culture and identity, while it’s interesting how that’s the very point of tourism – meeting new ways and cultures of living.

We don’t need to invent hot water. Let us be what we are – Croats.

Let us sell what we are, our stories that only need nice packaging.

To read more of the HR Turizam blog, click here.


Subscribe to our newsletter

the fields marked with * are required
Email: *
First name:
Last name:
Gender: Male Female
Please don't insert text in the box below!

Leave a Comment