Intel Security CMO: Why marketers need to think more about crisis management

Marketing leader also shares why she thinks cybersecurity awareness across brands is still a major issue

One of the first causalities of any cyber-attack is brand reputation. But when you are the chief marketing officer of one of the world’s largest cybersecurity companies, the stakes are so much higher again.

Allison Cerra took on the role of vice-president of marketing at US-based Intel Security Group in late 2015, following marketing roles with Hewlett-Packard, Alcatel-Lucent and other technology companies. Her group incorporates the assets of the former McAfee security software company, which Intel acquired in 2010.

As previously reported in CMO, marketers generally have shown little eagerness to engage in discussions around cybersecurity, despite their function having much to lose through a successful cyberattack in terms of brand reputation, and often being responsible for communications in the inevitable clean-up that follows.

According to Cerra, the lack of engagement may be due in part to the messages put out by the cybersecurity community itself.

“One of the things that we suffer here in cybersecurity is the complexity of it,” she says. “And we don’t do ourselves any favours. We talk to one another in our own echo chamber and it is hard for us to simplify that.

Allison Cerra
Allison Cerra


“I think that the industry has a responsibility to simplify this for the average lay person, who doesn’t spend their time in technology and doesn’t realise that they should care.”

While numerous brands including Target, Sony and Ashley Madison have recently provided proof of the huge impact cyber breaches have on brand and financial performance, Cerra says often these ‘canaries in the coalmine’ are not heeded.

“Truthfully, marketers are just trying to look through the windshield of what we can see in the immediate terrain and we’re not thinking about what is around the corner,” Cerra says. “Like any good crisis management, you don’t know you need it until it happens.

“But that goes to what your brand is. Because if you have a very transparent, authentic brand in the marketplace but you do suffer a breach and all of a sudden become very clandestine in how you respond to that, that could be completely counter to what your brand position is publicly, which will undermine your brand value proposition.”

As the CMO of a technology security company, Cerra is eminently aware of the added pressure she faces in terms of safeguarding her own company’s reputation in an environment where it represents a high value target. As a result, she remains in close contact with her technical peers.

“I’ve made it a practice of surrounding myself with our CTO, who has given me a crash course in the last eight months or so around how dangerous the adversary is and what we need to be thinking about,” she says.

“I don’t think CMOs understand that their role is to be at that table and engaged in those conversations, if not leading it from a brand promise perspective as to what the company should do in those cases.”

Cerra says Intel Security also has an advisory group of its most senior 25 customers that discusses engagement between marketing and cybersecurity, among other things.

“We talk to board members and CEOs on a regular basis, because cybersecurity has now moved from the back-office reality of IT into the boardroom, and even into the Oval Office,” Cerra says. “So we will elevate the discourse directly with those CMOs and try to educate them and expose them to why they should care and make it as plain and simple as we can.”

But she acknowledges that to drive engagement around such a complex topic, the message coming out of the industry itself needs to be easier to digest and rise above technologies and products.

“We are working now on how do we simplify the message,” Cerra says. “We believe there is an opportunity to raise the altitude of the message, so that c-level executives and CMOs can better understand the fight that is happening around them on a daily basis. Many of us don’t even realise the expanse of what is happening and how real it is.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments
cmo-xs-promo

Latest Videos

More Videos

who wants to date me I am 9 years old and i am a boy

Jeremy Hawkins

Sink a sub gaming experience signals Subway's renewed brand push

Read more

Great read. I agree that it should be a perfect balance between interacting with your customers and knowing your brand. As a business, yo...

Caroline Scott

7 ways CMOs can improve their customer engagement game

Read more

Very true. Team development helps improve collaboration among the team members. I was able to improve my team's collaboration skills by t...

Quent Sinder

Why empowering others can help make you a great leader

Read more

CRM is a very good software that can help you succeed in your business. In my company, this system has allowed me to improve customer rel...

Anna Janicka

Sensis rebrands to Thryv and brings business software to Australian SMBs

Read more

AI Leasing Assistants have finally arrived for the multifamily industry. With so many to choose from it can be hard to figure out which i...

Alice Labs Pte. Ltd.

CMO's top 8 martech stories for the week - 6 May 2021

Read more

Blog Posts

Unboxing 101 - How savvy influencer engagement can build a brand

The humble unboxing video is a powerful tool. Correctly executed, it harnesses consumer fandom, viral authenticity and brand design magic to deliver a high-impact message to a tightly targeted cohort of consumers.

Gali Arnon

Chief marketing officer, Fiverr

​Power to the people

Purpose is the ultimate statement of intent for many organisations. Why are we here? What are we trying to achieve?

Rich Curtis

CEO, FutureBrand A/NZ

The playbook to develop strategic brand moats

Warren Buffet is an unlikely ally for marketers. But his belief businesses need strategic moats that increase their value in the market while acting as barriers to competitors can offer marketers a new playbook for brand building and driving growth.

Fabian Di Marco

Founder and managing director, Tzu & Co

Sign in