Ask most historians how Germany lost the war and they’ll tell you, invading Russia.
But I think they did something even more stupid.
They could have won the war if they hadn’t done one really dumb thing.
I think the dumbest thing they did was declaring war on America.
They didn’t need to do it, but they didn’t bother understanding all the facts.
They had been fighting Britain since 1939 and Russia since 1941.
But neither could produce enough weapons, they both depended on American supplies.
Roosevelt sent supplies, but the US couldn’t actually fight because of the Neutrality Act.
Plus, German immigrants and Irish immigrants to the USA hated Britain.
Henry Ford was publicly anti-Semitic and even received a medal from Hitler.
Charles Lindbergh, a huge hero in America, was publicly pro-German.
At the time JFK’s father, Joseph Kennedy, was US Ambassador to Britain.
After Dunkirk, he said publicly: “Democracy is finished in England”.
In 1940, Roosevelt’s share of the vote fell – Americans didn’t want a war with Germany.
And then, on December 7th 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour.
Suddenly America was at war, but only with Japan, not with Germany.
This was the perfect time for Germany to just let American anger take over.
If they had, the Irish and German immigrant lobby could have turned American efforts away from Europe and towards Japan.
Japan had attacked them, that was who America should be fighting against.
Roosevelt would have been forced to ignore Britain and Russia and concentrate on Japan.
But Germany didn’t do that, and here’s where they made their dumbest move.
On December 11th, just 4 days later, Germany declared war on America.
They couldn’t resist the chance to sink American ships supplying Britain and Russia.
So they began ‘Operation Paukenschlag’ (Drumbeat).
And for six months after Pearl Harbour, German U-boats sank 609 ships (3.1 million tons) off the eastern coast of America.
It was a massive success, known as: ‘The Second Pearl Harbour’.
But it meant America couldn’t ignore Germany, who now became a priority over Japan.
Nikita Khrushchev later said: “Stalin told me that if the US had not helped us we could not have won the war. If we had to fight Germany on our own we would have lost.”
So it wasn’t invading Russia that was Germany’s biggest mistake, it was declaring war on America when they didn’t need to.
But what Germany knew was fighting, so they thought it was the solution to everything.
As they say: when the only tool you’ve got is a hammer every problem looks like a nail.
It’s the same in our business.
People in advertising think all success is totally down to the advertising.
Good advertising: sales go up. Bad advertising: sales go down.
But that isn’t always true.
What about distribution, what if the product isn’t available where you live?
What about supply chains, what if it isn’t available in your size, or it’s too expensive?
What about PoS, what if the sales-staff are rude or the outlets are dirty?
Sometimes the advertising is great but the product doesn’t sell.
Sometime the advertising is bad but the product still sells.
There are many factors, advertising is one of them and, if it’s any good, it’s the most visible.
But if our job is to sell, we need to be aware of every stage in the process, everywhere it could go wrong.
That’s why we need to know about everything in the process.
From NPD, to the factory, to the salesforce, to outlets, to research, to budgets, to media.
Because any area we don’t know, is somewhere we are weak and vulnerable.
Which means we could do our job brilliantly and still fail.