Defending Your Trust


By: , Chairman & CEO, MediaLink

“Man maintains his balance, poise and sense of security only as he is moving forward.” — Maxwell Maltz

I’ve always loved Maltz’s quote, which served as the foundation for the self-help movement that would follow in its wake. Yet it has always begged the question — what happens when the things that are moving us forward are the very things that are causing our insecurities?

As the 2014 year-end recaps roll in, we will see statements (all true) that we live in the “Age of the Platform” or the “Age of the Cloud” or the “Age of Mobile.” All of these are predicated on our drive to make information more accessible and moremeaningful. Yet with this fluidity and convenience comes vulnerability, and with the ability to manage vulnerability comes trust.

Brand marketing and its public market cousin “good will” are built on this bedrock.

In looking back over the last few months, many of the biggest stories this year were about breaches in trust. Whether it was Target’s CEO stepping down in the aftermath of a serious customer data breach, the leaked nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence or, most recently, this month’s trove of personal data and communication hacked from Sony Pictures.

No one wishes this on their worst enemy. These stories are the consequences of bad actors taking advantage of our progress.

Respecting the security of information has always been an issue and a fascination of the public. (Watergate, anyone?) But this year something in the air changed. The security breaches of 2014 made (and have stayed in) the news not just because of Hollywood schadenfreude, but because of the scale and personalization of those affected.

It doesn’t matter if it was a state-backed terrorist attack or that of a private hacking group with a vengeance (both scary, both unforgivable). The consequences of all this are very serious, especially for us as marketers. Any security breach — whether it’s financial data, customer details or even organizational “dirty laundry” — erodes the trust and goodwill that is essential to brands. Once a brand loses the trust of its consumers, it may never earn it back. To paraphrase the sentiments of Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel, it truly has “devastating” implications.

There can’t be confusion any longer: There is no separate “digital world” anymore — it’s just the world we live in. The CMO, CIO, CTO mash-up is at its most heightened urgency when it comes to working on cybersecurity. What does choosing one malware protection software over the other say about a CPG or QSR company? How does that impact the way our audiences and consumers view us as credible service or product providers?

Protecting consumer data was always table-stakes, but the stakes — clearly — have gotten much higher.

My prediction was that 2014 would be the year in which how a business managed the “mashup” of the CMO/CIO/CTO would become the differentiator between companies that would flourish and flounder.

Going into 2015, the mash-up is complete. There is no longer such a thing as a “technical issue.” Everything is now a consumer issue.

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