On the Front Lines: CMOs and Cybersecurity

mad men Title CardA day in the life of a CMO is no episode of “Mad Men.”

With the rapid rise of ad tech, mobile marketing and social media, the CMO inhabits an increasingly virtual realm that is closer to the customer than ever before. Managing a vortex of consumer data, digital campaigns and app development also exposes the CMO’s organization to cybercrime. Indeed, cybersecurity is quickly becoming a primary challenge and responsibility for enterprise CMOs. To reap the rewards of marketing success and competitive advantage, they must have a thorough grasp of the risks.

The cybersecurity threat landscape is highly dynamic, and cyber criminals are as focused on reaching your customers as you are. You need a strategy that prepares the marketing organization — and in collaboration with the C-suite and the board of directors (BoD), the entire enterprise — to respond effectively to threats and negative incidents. CMOs are tasked with brand management, and a brand’s reputation is likely to be the most visibly damaged asset in the aftermath of a breach. Likewise, data-driven marketing is fueled by customer trust. Preparation, protection and responsiveness are key to containing the damage and preserving that trust.

Collaboration Is Key
Digital technology has created limitless opportunities, enabling greater brand engagement and innovative customer experiences. On the other hand, it has exponentially increased enterprise vulnerability. With the increased use, integration and interconnection of mobile devices, the network perimeter is blurry and porous, complicating security efforts. Marketers must incorporate security frameworks into their strategic marketing plans and determine how to solicit and deliver valuable customer insights safely.

CMOs are key drivers of digital-based growth for most organizations, yet many are not in the habit of working with the CIO and certainly not with the security department. So, how can the CMO improve in these areas? It starts with increased communication with the CEO, CIO and the BoD.

The leaders at the top of an organization have the clearest view of the “big picture,” and a duty to share it across the enterprise. A sincere, shared commitment to a common vision is the heart of a good relationship between the CMO and the BoD. If this synergy between the BoD and the CMO is lacking, collaborating on complex issues like cybersecurity and data management will likely be frustrating. Successful engagement requires careful preparation and sustained effort; the trust earned through this process provides a shortcut in future collaborations and a buffer when delivering bad news.

Optimizing security practices should be an enterprise-wide mission, and every executive is responsible for clearly demonstrating that it is a top priority. Among the most important defenses any company has against cybercrime is a widespread and deeply rooted culture of security that is bolstered by exemplary leadership, regular training, strong policies and enforcement. CMOs are uniquely positioned to create powerful messages about the value of security for employees and customers, alike. Organizations where all stakeholders work together toward building a strong defense will be most likely to thrive under the immense pressures at hand.

In the event of a breach, CMOs will suddenly find themselves on the frontlines. The most evolved enterprises know that a solid security posture includes careful incident response planning. CMOs are an essential part of this conversation, and should map out a detailed strategy for how brand, customer and product concerns will be addressed in the aftermath of a breach. There are many lessons to be learned from recent high-profile breaches; financial and reputational damage will be amplified or mitigated depending on the speed, credibility and efficacy of the response. A thorough and data-driven exploration of post-breach scenarios — especially those involving public perception and crisis management — will help convince resistant CEOs and BoDs of the centrality of the CMO’s role to security and incident response planning.


Steve Durbin is managing director of the Information Security Forum (ISF). Reach him at steve.durbin@securityforum.org.


Publish date: September 10, 2015 https://dev.adweek.com/performance-marketing/front-lines-cmos-cybersecurity/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT
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