Employees brainstorming in meeting showing the need for marketers to know about cybersecurity and work with IT team
What Marketers Need to Know About Cybersecurity by Marie Johnson, Contributing Author at Enlightened Digital

What Marketers Need to Know About Cybersecurity

Data-driven marketing has become the new marketing norm for businesses of all sizes. As Mark Flaharty, executive vice president of advertising at SundaySky says, “Arguably, the most important evolution in the history of marketing is the ability to understand what data you have, what data you can get, how to organize and, ultimately, how to activate the data.”

More and more high-performing marketing teams are leveraging customer data to craft a full picture of their target consumer base. This allows them to create more focused campaigns, which naturally leads to better results. However, though customers prefer these personalized experiences (many are even willing to pay more to receive them), consumers don’t trust today’s businesses to adequately secure their personal information.

A recent report by PwC indicates more than 90% of consumers believe companies must be more proactive about data protection. Without proper security strategies in place, data-driven marketing tactics could leave consumers increasingly exposed to cyber threats.

CMOs are not typically involved in managing cyber risk; in fact, only 22% of consumer product companies include CMOs on incident-response teams in the event of a cyber breach. Cyber risk has become a high priority for corporations and consumers who are concerned about the theft of personal information. Although it has typically been the concern of CIOs, CISOs, and CTOs, the time has come for CMOs to also focus on cyber risk.

Here are a few things CMOs and marketing teams should know about cybersecurity, as well as how they can make an impact in practicing safe, data-driven strategies:

Customer data must be continuously managed and safeguarded

Many marketing teams use data management platforms (DMPs) to collect and manage customer data. Whether gathered from offline systems, like a customer relationship management (CRM) system, or online systems, like websites or mobile apps, DMPs are often used for profiling, analyzing, and targeting online customers. Managing the information stored in these databases is a critical process for businesses, involving tasks such as accessing and securing customer data.

Although the security of this data is vital to digital marketing success, database management is outside the scope of daily work for marketing teams. However, if the database is not secure, the organization can be at risk of data breaches. For this reason, companies like Oracle have pioneered the use of autonomous databases, which automatically encrypt all data, provide automatic security updates, and protect from external attacks, without requiring added human time and effort. This allows marketing teams to continuously keep their customers’ data safe, without having to constantly monitor their database.

Marketing and IT teams must act as partners

Marketing teams are consistently deploying new technologies to add to their marketing toolkit, whether they are supplementing data analytics, customization, or overall campaign optimization. However, the addition of these new marketing tools may be going unnoticed by cybersecurity teams, adding a potential “silent” cyber threat.

Deloitte’s report on Why CMOs should care about cyber risk revealed that 27% of consumer products executives indicate a lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities as a major challenge in regulating cyber risk. It’s no longer enough for marketing leaders to simply inform IT they’re adding new tools; marketing teams and IT teams must maintain consistent and effective communication.

As Luanne Tierney, managing member at Fivesky, tells Robert Half, “CMOs must now closely collaborate with their IT counterparts to develop a parallel strategy for keeping company and customer information secure while continuing to drive demand and engagement.” CMOs should consider taking a more collaborative approach with their IT colleagues, engaging in conversations that increase their knowledge about cyber risk and educating the entirety of their marketing department on its importance.

Marketing teams need to play a role in data breach recovery

In the case that an organization becomes the victim of a data breach, resulting in the exposure of customer data, marketing teams must step in to manage and protect the brand’s reputation. Experiencing a breach can have a detrimental impact on a business’ reputation and subsequently hinder sales growth and profit.

According to a survey by Ping Identity, 78 percent of consumers indicate they would stop engaging online with a brand if it experienced a breach. Similarly, Gemalto found 66% of consumers are unlikely to do business with an organization that had a data breach exposing sensitive and financial information.

The threat of losing customers or the inability to attract new ones presents a serious challenge for marketers. Therefore, marketers need to devise a comprehensive plan on how to minimize customers’ post-incident losses and also serve as a stakeholder in the company’s crisis communication plan. Should a successful cyber-attack take place and result in a data breach, a marketing team that is proactive and anticipates cyber threats and risks in advance can contribute to post-breach crisis communication and effectively support customers.

As today’s businesses move toward a world where data privacy and customer data protection practices are heavily scrutinized, CMOs need to become major stakeholders in cybersecurity planning and implementation.