By 1941 Britain was fighting the war alone, Germany had overrun Europe; we badly needed to buy weapons from America to carry on, but we had no money left.
President Roosevelt knew it was in America’s interest to give Britain the weapons they needed, but the Neutrality Act made it illegal.
So his idea was to lend the weapons to Britain to be paid for after the war, it was called Lend-Lease.
This was understood by the politicians in Washington, but not by the general public.
They didn’t live in the world of foreign affairs, they lived on farms and in cities in America.
The world of geopolitics wasn’t their world, they couldn’t see why they should get involved in someone else’s war thousands of miles away.
Instead of making grand speeches, Roosevelt used weekly radio broadcasts known as ‘Fireside Chats’, where he explained his policies to ordinary folk in their language.
He took Lend-Lease out of the complicated language of the political world and put it into the language of the world ordinary folk lived in.
“If your neighbour comes to you and says his house is on fire and asks to borrow your hose, you gladly lend it to him so the fire doesn’t spread to your house.
Once the fire is out, if he returns your hose undamaged, all well and good.
But if your hose is damaged, you say you were happy to lend him the hose but now he needs to pay to replace it.
And he does so willingly, because that’s how good neighbours behave.”
Of course, ordinary people listening all over America understood every word and were persuaded that Lend-Lease was the right thing to do.
Britain got all the weapons it needed and paid for them after the war.
But if he’d just announced it in formal language, he wouldn’t have got the same response.
Roosevelt understood the concept of ‘Umwelt’, although he wouldn’t have called it that.
German biologist Jakob von Uexkull coined the term Umwelt to describe the way various organisms inhabit different worlds.
Science accepts that the universe is infinite, therefore there must be infinite ways to experience it.
As humans, we actually know only five ways to experience the universe: vision, sound, smell, touch, taste.
Our sense-data is all we know, but other organisms have different sense-data and experience the world differently.
Because our sense-data is all we know of the world, that becomes our world: our Umwelt.
Von Uexkull illustrates the point with what happens when you take your dog for a walk.
The dog stops to smell every lamp-post, every tree, every car-tyre, your dog lives in a world of smells we can’t experience.
So different creatures share the same physical space but inhabit different worlds, this is the concept of Umwelt.
This is something marketing and advertising people desperately need to learn.
The world that the general public live in is not the world advertising lives in.
Each person lives in their own Umwelt: different worries, different jobs, mortgages, children, overdraughts, friends, hobbies, sexual-relationships, health issues, fun, gossip, anticipations, memories.
All of this is going on in their world while, without any knowledge or interest, we interrupt and barge straight into their lives.
We just broadcast what’s important in our world, then wonder why no one pays any attention to us.
Pulitzer prize-winning author Ed Yong describes the human condition like this: “It is all that we know, and so we easily mistake it for all there is to know.”
He could easily be talking about advertising’s attitude towards the world outside itself.
What Roosevelt understood is what Mark Ritson says is the first and most important lesson for anyone in marketing: “You are not the target market”.
Roosevelt understood the concept of Umwelt, understanding the world of the people we’re trying to communicate with.
That’s why the people elected Roosevelt as president for FOUR terms.
That’s twice as many terms as any other president, before or since.