Why Marketing Professionals Need to Understand Cybersecurity

Not too long ago, most marketers viewed cybersecurity as just an IT issue. Even as breaches became more common, many companies failed to realize how interconnected the two departments were. The theft of customer data, for example, creates huge problems for marketers; if the company loses the trust of its customers, it is up to the marketing department to win it back, rebuild relationships and undermine the efforts of the competition to wield the breach as a weapon against the company. Furthermore, as the use of marketing tools increases, the number of potential vulnerabilities also increases. As a result, marketing professionals are becoming more aware of cybersecurity.

Why Marketers Must Care About Cybersecurity

Marketing technology has advanced a great deal during the last decade, spawning the age of the marketing lifecycle. As the marketing department deploys more technology, the threats to the entire organization increase. No department is an impenetrable island; if a single computer is compromised, the damage can spread to every device connected to the network. A vulnerability in a tool deployed by marketing can set off a cascading series of events that can disrupt every department and every employee within the organization, potentially spreading to customers and suppliers. Cloud computing and the Internet of Things has only increased the number of potentially vulnerable points. In short, hackers have more ways than ever to attack an organization and spread mayhem.

Furthermore, marketers need to be knowledgeable about cybersecurity issues when planning their marketing campaigns. Consumers have become increasingly aware of the methods that hackers use. If marketers send out emails that could be misinterpreted as a spear-phishing campaign or text messages that could be interpreted as gibberish, they could be wasting their time or eroding the trust of their customers.

What Marketers Need to Know

Data breaches normally encompass four distinct phases.

  • Reconnaissance: The hackers take the time to learn about the targeted organization, including the employees who work there.
  • Infiltration: The hackers gain access when a user downloads malware or clicks on a phishing message.
  • Exploitation: The hackers look for the most valuable data as well as the weakest administrative passwords that will grant them full access to the data.
  • Exfiltration: The hackers download what they want. The data could be personal information on employees or customers, financial information, intellectual property or proprietary product formulas.

Cybersecurity can be especially critical for international marketers. Many countries, including Canada, have strict regulations on the collection, use and disclosure of information. Not complying can affect how trustworthy the company appears to consumers, but it can also subject the company to substantial fines.

Marketers should be involved in the organization’s incident response plan. Should a breach occur that requires communicating with customers, marketing will be on the front line. The organization needs to deliver a consistent, coordinated response to help minimize the damage.

When choosing a third-party vendor, marketers need to ensure that the vendor will be able to protect the company’s data. Security audits and questions about possible points that intruders could use to gain entry into the organization’s environment can help ensure that the vendor has the ability to keep data secure.

Cybersecurity must be an interdepartmental effort. Marketers must be willing to collaborate with other departments, eliminate silos and communicate effectively. They should educate themselves about cybersecurity so that they know the right questions to ask.

In the modern world, marketers need to be consumer advocates when cybersecurity is involved. Marketing concepts such as personalized content, customer engagement and the customer’s purchase journey are meaningless if customers doubt the company’s ability to safeguard their information. Cybersecurity should be a priority for every department, including marketing, customer service and sales. In short, cybersecurity is everyone’s job.

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