If you’re a civil servant in Zimbabwe, and one day you receive an SMS from G-Tide that you never subscribing for, you’re going to wonder how they got your number. Here’s how: A friend of yours gave it to G-Tide. And they did that for a chance to win a US $85 mobile phone.
We learnt of this G-Tide promotion last week when we posted an Econet eTXT article on our Facebook page. A reader commented: “Unlike gtide zimbabwe’s competition at least we dont have to sell our friend’s cellphone numbers in order to win something. great innovation Econet”.
We checked the G-Tide Facebook page. Here’s a screenshot of the promotion announcement:
That’s all there is to it: Give G-Tide as many civil servant friends’ phone numbers as you can and stand a chance to win a mobile phone. Nothing about why they need these phone numbers. Nothing about what they will do with the phone numbers. Nothing about how they will protect owners of the phone numbers from unsolicited commercial SMS messages and cold calls.
We sent a message to G-Tide with questions about how long the promo is running, what they plan to do with the numbers and a comment on the ethical line. The following is part of the response we received from the G-Tide Zimbabwe Head of Communications, Alpha Tereki:
..the promo is running from now till end of september.. the numbers and emails will basically be used for our database and CRM… we want to foster a stronger relationship with our customers.. it’s very ethical.
we will ask the person [whose number has been submitted] if they would like to receive G-Tide info etc.. if they say no, then we will not contact them at all
A local blog, 3-Mob, had an article about this sort of thing last week. The summary of the article is that it is against Zimbabwean law to spam people with telephone messages.
G-Tide Zimbabwe has had quite some commercial success locally. The brand is associated with improving access to mobile telephony for the bulk of the 7 million mobile phone subscribers in Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe. G-Tide came along with low cost Asian feature phones at a time when a lot of people could not afford the more expensive brands like Nokia, Samsung, HTC, BlackBerry and iPhone.
The company not only provided cheaper alternatives, most times it provided imitations of the expensive brands. You could for example buy a BlackBerry lookalike for just US $50 where a genuine BlackBerry costs at least 10 times that.
This playing-close-to-the-line strategy has worked well for G-Tide. In fact, G-Tide has catered for a market largely ignored by the established brands; ordinary people that just want more features on an inexpensive mobile phone.
But there is a line. And there is world of difference between playing close to it and just unashamedly crossing it.