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Positioning Down in Africa

Poachers had slaughtered much of the herd and had captured and sold many of the others.

There were seven left and they were angry.

Humans were now the enemy and the herd had taken to rampaging through hamlets and villages, turning over jeeps, and creating general havoc.

A phone rang in Zululand, South Africa. It was picked up by a bearded, 6’5” South African.

Lawrence Anthony was a world-renowned conservationist, environmentalist and owner of an African safari lodge and private game reserve called Thula Thula.

“I heard you want to repopulate the area with elephant,” his friend said.

The previous owner of Lawrence’s property had hunted out all of the elephant years earlier

“If you take this wild herd we’ll give them to you.  You just have to pay the shipping.  If you don’t take them, we’re going to kill them. They’re a troublesome bunch, Lawrence, and we haven’t been able to keep them contained.”

He knew nothing about handling elephants, but Lawrence Anthony never met a challenge he didn’t take, particularly if it involved saving animals.

They built a huge corral for the herd where they would stay for 3 months in order to become accustomed to their new surroundings. Then they would be released into the wild of the vast game reserve.

They cut down all of the trees in the corral but one that appeared too large for the elephants to push over and short out the fence.

When the elephants arrived, they put them into the corral, but the next morning they awoke to find that the herd had broken out.  They had pushed over that one remaining tree, shorted the electric fence and made their getaway.

Lawrence assembled a team of game rangers and a helicopter, to find them. It took 3 days.  The rangers and the chopper herded them back to Thula Thula and they were put back into the now treeless and newly fortified corral.

It was now life or death for the elephants as officials had told Lawrence that if they broke out again, the whole herd would be put down.

He decided to live with them… 24 hours a day for as long as it took to get them to trust him.

He set up a tent next to the corral, just out of trunk’s reach, and walked around the corral every day, talking and singing to them, getting them used to him.

They were angry, hostile, wrathful.

He talked to them about Bob Dylan, about mathematics, about anything that came into his mind.

It took three weeks and a day, but on day 22, as though someone had turned off the hostility switch, the elephant’s anger disappeared.

The matriarch came over to the fence and reached out to Lawrence through the wires with her trunk.  He backed off because, previously, if she had gotten hold of him, she would have killed him.

She too pulled away, walked around the corral, but then reached out again. Again, he backed away. But the third time, Lawrence decided to hold his ground. The matriarch reached out with her trunk and stroked his chest.

The bond was struck.

Lawrence immediately let them out into the larger game reserve from which they have never since tried to leave.

After those first few weeks, every time Lawrence would go away on a trip, the whole herd would somehow know when he was returning and would be waiting to greet him when he arrived home.

The night Lawrence died of a heart attack in a hotel in Johannesburg (300 miles from Thula Thula as the crow flies), the whole herd walked 12 miles, with a new baby in tow, to his house and stayed there for a day and a half grieving.

He was an extraordinary man and it is an extraordinary story.

And because of that, it may seem a bit “commercial” to bridge from this fascinating tale to show you an example of some great positioning, but Lawrence (who was a good friend) would likely laugh at any such concern.

So take a look. Watch how a South Africa Investment firm used Lawrence’s story to position their company in a commercial that ran on South African television during the Olympics’ opening ceremony.


I have no idea what kind of returns they get, but their advertising agency knows positioning.

But then, so do we. And I can tell you without a doubt, nothing moves your brand into the mind of your public more rapidly and more powerfully than the right position.

If you want to position your company, or product or service, we are but a phone call or mouse click away.

“…the positioning that grew out of your research was nothing short of stellar! We now have a strategically researched, laser-like position that will dramatically assist us in rolling out our new brand.” JLD President & CEO.