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Why CMOs should be paying more attention to cybersecurity

Brad Howarth | July 6, 2016
High-profile cyber attacks and threats should be raising alarm bells for marketing leaders in terms of brand strategy and safety

The data, however, tells him they should. Research by PwC shows of all the cybersecurity incidents that took place globally in the last 12 months, 22 per cent of companies experienced an impact to their brand or reputation, 17 per cent lost customers, and 10 per cent of companies wound up in some form of lawsuit or litigation.

The lack of engagement of marketers is a phenomenon also noted by Peter Ruchatz, CMO for data backup and availability specialists, Veeam. He says other marketers rarely participate in conversations relating to cybersecurity or the general availability of data and systems.

"Especially in not-so IT or technology focused companies - they look at me and think 'what are you talking about?'" he says. "But we are in transition right now, and very soon marketers will realise their products and services are delivered mainly through software. And when the service is out, or the data is not available, they are out of business.

"Few companies make the connection to overall brand experience and impact that this might have. But if you really want to be responsible for the brand experience as the CMO, you cannot just wait until something happens."

Why CMOs should make IT and security incidents a priority

The key reason for disconnect may be cultural in nature. Marketing functions have traditionally been removed from the IT function, where cybersecurity tends to reside. However, the rise of digital marketing has brought the two groups much closer together, even if the languages spoken by each are not yet common.

These language barriers are much lower at a company like Atlassian, where Dietrich says security and marketing teams work together to actively and transparently alert customers of issues, and work to have customers to adopt secure practices.

Just because a company does not live in the technology sector does not mean it is safe from attack, however, as was demonstrated with Target. Dietrich cautions cybersecurity has the potential to damage companies in all industries by undermining the ability of marketers to build brand affinity, customer loyalty and sales.

"Handling security incidents should be top of mind for every CMO," she says. "It's a huge legal, PR, social media and customer trust risk - and an opportunity to earn trust if you do it right.

"Top marketers should all have an active interest in helping brainstorm potential threats and being prepared to protect and respond. Many companies already do this as part of their crisis communications planning with PR teams. They should seek to learn what real threats concern their security group, identify if there are proactive ways they can protect their customers through communications, and have plans in place to act quickly should the worst happen.

 

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