Is It Time for Cyber Security Brands to Leave the Battlefield?

The security industry is evolving. But security brands are stuck in the fear-obsessed past.
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Look around any security technology tradeshow and you’ll feel more like you’re in a national security event than a business technology conference. Military images, dark, ominous colors, and foreboding language from vendors that all convey the same message: You’re not safe, and you need us to protect you.

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

These brands are tapping into a very specific emotion in their customers: fear. They have positioned themselves (and their products) as heroes, rescuing their clients from peril in a world of cyber security chaos and uncertainty.

And it makes sense – it’s the security industry. It’s all about preparing for cyber attacks, shoring up for breaches, and protecting from hackers. Isn’t it?

As it turns out, this is only part of the conversation. Yes – enterprises of all sizes (and across a broadening array of markets) are turning to the security industry for protection and prevention. But fear is no longer the driving factor. Data breaches and cyber attacks have become so prevalent that C-suite executives and IT managers generally accept it’s no longer if but when.

In other words, protection in many ways has become a tablestake. Would a company purchase your product or solution if they didn’t think it would protect their sensitive information or prevent security breaches? They are looking past protection. They want to understand what you can help them achieve once that protection is in place.

The Changing Role of Security

This shift reflects a change in the security industry as a whole. As cyber security threats have evolved from something only highly sensitive industries, like financial services companies, needed worry about, to something that impacts every industry, security technology companies entered the scene as the master guardians, here to save the day and protect you from what you don’t understand.

But companies have also evolved. Their C-Suites have expanded to include CISOs – chief information security officers – responsible for understanding the implications of the new technical age and cyber security on their organization.

And while CISOs initially focused on prevention, they themselves are evolving, taking a more active role in guiding key strategic business decisions. According to a study from IBM Center for Applied Insights, a quarter of surveyed security chiefs see themselves as having shifted from focusing purely on technology to now playing a strategic business leadership role. Another 47% want to play a more strategic role, but lack the necessary authority to impact business. They need business partners who will help them earn this seat at the decision-making table.

Moving Up the Hierarchy of Needs

One way of understanding this shift is to consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow purported that people were motivated by various needs, and when one need is filled, they move to the next, up a pyramid. Safety is a lower need, to be achieved after physiological needs. Only after this need is met can people move onto satisfying esteem and self-actualization needs.

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Borrowing this psychology lens for B2B branding, we could say that as the security industry has evolved, customers’ needs have evolved with it. It’s no longer just about safety. But cyber security firms aren’t keeping pace, still largely stuck on fear-based messaging.

Turn the Lens

To stand out in the cluttered battlefield of security technology branding and messaging, leave the war zone completely. Focus on your customer’s higher level needs. This will likely mean turning the lens – away from your own products and services and onto your customer and what they can achieve. How can you make them the hero? Brands that are able to speak to the ways in which working with them can ensure business security and help CISO’s achieve their highest potential will make much stronger connections with customers and prospects.

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