According to the CMO, customer trust and data privacy go hand-in-hand, but too many marketers don't understand what's involved in this digital handshake — or what's at stake. The council says that a data breach can reduce a company's bottom line to nothing and tarnish its brand reputation for years.

The sheer amount of personal digital data — from financial records to facial recognition — that is flooding corporate networks has customers ready to flee brands that lose their trust in keeping their data secure.

According to the CMO Council's new report, a majority of global marketing leaders (57%) believe that the most critical demand of the modern customer is data security, privacy and accountability.

The new report, which was produced in partnership with Akamai Technologies, points to the growing need for customer trust to influence every corporate decision and customer engagement across every digital and physical channel. It calls for marketing, IT, legal and operations to adopt a privacy-first culture.

The research suggests that there’s little time to waste. The trends identified by the report that are driving demand for a privacy-first culture include:
  • Emerging technologies aimed at personalising the customer experience — such as biometric scanners in retail and smart cities — increase the risk of data breaches.
  • Marketers needing real-time personal data to meet growing customer expectations lack an understanding of data security, distribution and utilisation; only 36% of employees feel very confident in their knowledge of how to protect sensitive company information, according to a Dell end-user security survey.
  • Customers are prioritising data security and privacy. 87% of consumers say that they will take their business elsewhere if they don't trust that a company is handling their data responsibly, according to a PwC study.
  • Attacks on corporate data continue to proliferate. From January 2018 through to June, Akamai recorded more than 61 billion credential stuffing attempts and more than four billion web application attacks.
"Across all brands, a single truth emerges: Yes, there are hard process decisions that will require cross-functional teams and support, and even uncomfortable decisions that come with bigger price tags," says Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council.

"But if conversations are not being held and new processes, policies and even platforms not being considered, the impact could be catastrophic," adds Neale-May. The report also indicates that brands with a privacy-first culture tend to be governed by ethics.

For instance, a retailer today might have the ability to install eye-tracking cameras in its stores to better understand an individual's shopping habits but will first consider the impact on consumer trust before green-lighting such a project.

Conversely, laggards wait for regulations, such as the Global Data Privacy Regulation from the European Union, to push them toward privacy actions. But according to the report, this is a dangerous strategy. This is because customer expectations concerning data privacy are often higher than the current regulatory environment.

"Brands need to make it explicit that they are a privacy-first organisation, implementing the proper governance and distribution of data across brands, channels and touchpoints," says John Summers, VP and chief technology officer at Akamai Technologies.

"Fundamentally, customers want brands to treat them as an individual, knowing the value they deliver. In exchange, they will provide data in order to be met as an individual," concludes Summers.

The report is now available for download from the CMO Council. Findings are collected from interviews with thought leaders from the following organisations:
  • Akamai
  • AT&T Business
  • Bayer Healthcare
  • Bosch
  • Cox Media
  • Samsung
  • Samsonite
For more information, visit You can also follow the CMO Council on Twitter.