Everything Can Change: The Co-Evolution of the CMO and the CISO

5 min read
(August 14, 2023)

The roles of Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) have evolved to become strategic leadership positions crucial to revenue generation, building customer trust, and driving growth, necessitating their collaboration to promote provable safety and trust in business software.

Executive Insights:

  • The roles of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) have evolved, becoming more strategic and directly contributing to revenue generation and market opportunities.
  • Both roles have moved beyond their traditional scopes, with the CMO focusing on customer experience, branding and growth, and the CISO focusing on aligning IT security with market and customer expectations.
  • Trust is a crucial element of a business' relationship with its customers. The CMO and CISO need to work together to ensure trust is communicated effectively and securely to their customers.
  • Organizations that tightly integrate CISOs into their go-to-market strategy have been found to outperform those that treat CISOs as technical operational leaders.
  • There is an increasing need for collaboration between the CISO and CMO, which can result in cohesive risk management, brand protection, increased customer trust and loyalty.
  • The integration of CISOs into the executive suite, like the trajectory of CMOs, varies across organizations and is largely dependent on their ability to communicate their strategic impact on the business in market (not technical) terms.
  • Recognizing and leveraging the strategic roles of both the CISO and the CMO will be crucial for businesses to build trust and defend their value in an increasingly complex and fast-paced market.

As the CISO of Allocadia from 2015 - 2021, I had a front-row seat to an inspiring transformation in leadership dynamics: the strategic and tactical alignment of the CMO and the CFO. The relationship between these two leaders had historically been tense, as CMOs lacked the ability to demonstrate their impact in a way that made sense to the CFO (leading many CFOs to perceive marketing investments as guesses rather than informed decisions). Starting in the early 2010’s and armed with the modern strategies, language, and tools to clearly demonstrate ROI on investments, the CMO was able to deliver predictable returns, and took their place at the table where the business is run.

CMO and CISO Roles Have Experienced Significant Evolutions

Both the CMO and CISO roles have experienced significant evolutions in the same time frame, becoming more strategic leadership positions that contribute directly to revenue generation and market opportunity. Both roles have expanded their scope of responsibilities to go beyond specialization within their respective fields, emphasizing the importance of building trust with customers and accelerating value within the organization.

The modern CMO has moved beyond traditional promotional activities, responsible for branding, customer experience, and growth strategy in a data-primary practice. They collaborate closely with Revenue, Product, and Customer teams to ensure a consistent customer experience for the life of the customer relationship. As key members of the go-to-market leadership team, CMO's drive growth through story, research, data, and cross-functional leadership. Similarly, the role of the CISO has transformed from being a specialist confined within IT departments to taking a more strategic leadership in the organization and its go-to-market motions.

While securing data remains crucial, the reasons why the modern CISO runs their practice has become aligned to market and customer requirements in addition to the defense and enablement mission. By identifying and serving trust stakeholder requirements, the modern CISO can then lead a comprehensive market-facing practice that is strategically aligned with value stakeholder priorities.

CMO and CISO Working Together to Build and Tell Trust Stories

As I learned at Allocadia, you cannot sell enterprise software without winning the trust of over ten different trust stakeholders. That fact alone is enough for an organization to re-evaluate which of their investments in trust are market-facing and which are “just I.T.”. This shift in buying behavior, driven by cybercrime, tougher insurance requirements, stricter compliance, and new duties that highlight cyber liability in supply chains, highlights the importance of both the CMO and CISO working together to build and tell those crucial trust stories.

To paraphrase Seth Godin, people buy relationships, and the FEELINGS of trust and safety are foundational to long-lasting business partnerships. The why of the CISO is that the Customer (and their stakeholders) have made provable trust a condition of buying. As CISO investments yield evidence of reliable trustworthiness, CMOs can deploy that evidence in support of forward-facing trust messaging crafted to meet the specific needs of trust buyers.

There is a growing body of evidence that supports the idea that firms with CISOs who are integrated into their organizations go-to-market strategy achieve better outcomes compared to firms that treat CISOs as technical operational leaders. This shift in the role of the CISO mirrors the repositioning of the CMO as a key go-to-market leader. One study published in the Journal of Computer Science and Information Technology found that organizations with CISOs who are tightly linked to business objectives and revenue generation perform better. These are organizations where the CISO is involved in decision-making processes related to new product launches, customer engagement, and overall business strategy.

Established Partnership Between the CISO and CMO

Organizations with an established partnership between the CISO and CMO tend to outperform their competitors. This collaboration allows for a cohesive approach to risk management and brand protection, resulting in increased customer trust and loyalty. Organizations that view the CISO purely as a technical operational leader often struggle with cybersecurity initiatives and fail to align security measures with business goals. This approach limits the potential for strategic contributions from the CISO in driving revenue growth and defending value. On the other hand, organizations that integrate the CISO into the go-to-market strategy leverage their expertise to address security concerns proactively, enhancing customer trust and differentiating themselves from competitors. By combining security practices with marketing efforts, these organizations can communicate their commitment to data protection and establish a competitive advantage in terms of trustworthiness. Effective CISOs have a seat at the executive table, allowing them to more directly align security initiatives with business outcomes. By actively participating in strategic discussions and decision-making processes, they can influence company-wide cybersecurity awareness and ensure that security measures are integrated into go-to-market strategies.

Integration into the executive suite is another parallel between these roles. The CMO has progressed from being solely focused on marketing to becoming a strategic business leader. They now have a seat at the executive table and are involved in decision-making processes. On the other hand, while the CISO has gained more visibility and influence, their integration into the executive suite varies across organizations. This is directly and solely related to each CISOs ability to communicate their impact on the business in market terms, paralleling the challenges that CMOs faced 15 years ago as they sought to redefine their role in the value strategy. The maturation of the CMO role and the trajectory of the CISO shares several parallels. Both positions have transformed from specialized roles within their fields to strategic go-to-market leaders. Both are responsible for building trust with customers, bridging gaps between departments, and driving revenue growth. As trust continues to be recognized as a critical factor in predictable execution, organizations must recognize the importance of these two key roles, the CISO and the CMO, in enabling and defending value.

References and sources: 

JOIN THE DISCUSSION Banner Cybersecurity