This week, in the wake of the Optus data leak, we assess the growing importance of security in your brand strategy and customer experience.

Security is now your greatest asset

It may not be sexy, but long-term customer retention is going to depend on it.

Gail Ma



4 minute read

In 2022, it’s estimated that a single company will lose an average of USD $4.35 million as a result of a data breach.1 While this accounts for cost factors ranging from a loss in employee productivity to legal fees, the impact of the event on brand equity and customer trust can leave companies haemorrhaging, not just in the immediate aftermath but for years to come2.

So how did we all leave ourselves so vulnerable? And what can we be doing to champion security in our marketing to keep customers on side?

In short
  • Optus’ recent data leak has reinforced the impact security has on brand equity and customer retention.
  • Customers are increasingly valuing security over the convenience and personalisation their data enables.
  • Major companies like Apple are leveraging security as a key marketing tool and differentiator.
Optus: A cautionary tale in data security

The most recent example of a disaster in data privacy is the September 2022 Optus hack, in which up to 10 million customers were impacted. The leak included names, birth dates, addresses, phone numbers – and in some cases – passport, driver’s licence and Medicare numbers. Not only for current customers, but those who had left the telco too3.

Usually, companies are required to delete a person’s data after they’ve used it for its original purpose, or at the very least, encrypt or de-identify it should they be within their rights to retain it. But Optus wasn’t sufficiently doing any of that with the highly-sensitive personal data they were hoarding. As a result, the brand is already facing the risk of a mass exodus of current customers, as well as calls for compensation from past customers who’ve been impacted4.

From customer understanding to outrage

Back when data leaks were less common and less severe, customers usually saw the brands involved as unlucky victims of a crime, and because of this, were more likely to stick with them following the experience5. However, with increased publicity around how personal data is collected and its value to big companies, customers have become significantly more aware and critical of its use – holding companies to much higher standards than they once did. Even going as far as to demand assurance around data security in exchange for their business.

“Brands that hold little-publicised products backed by robust security features could be benefiting by pushing these to the forefront of their marketing.”

The marketing value of security

Recent studies have shown that customers increasingly care about the security of their data over the convenience and heightened personalisation its use can enable6. While future legislative changes are likely to force the hand of brands in terms of their technical infrastructure – encouraging the decommissioning of legacy APIs and so on – brands that are already leaders in this space, or even those that hold little-publicised products backed by robust security features, could be benefiting by pushing these to the forefront of their marketing7.

If in doubt, look to Apple

As usual, Apple was ahead of the game, identifying the growing importance security would play in future customer decision-making as far back as 2014 – with Apple CEO Tim Cook stating, “A world without privacy is less imaginative, less empathetic, less innovative, less human”. And further pledging Apple’s ongoing “commitment to protecting people from a data-industrial complex built on a foundation of surveillance”8.

Since then, Apple has progressively spent more and more time developing their security features and bringing them (somehow comically) to the centre of their brand identity and marketing campaigns. Like these ones:

‘Oversharing’ – 2020
Source: YouTube.

‘Data Auction’ – 2022
Source: YouTube.

And just this year, have announced two initiatives to protect customers against cybercrime.

Apple’s security efforts not only build their customer loyalty and reputation, they offer the brand a market advantage through the opportunity to expand into more sensitive areas like finance and health, as a result of the customer trust they have cultivated. And recent campaigns like this from competitor WhatsApp, further prove the value of this territory:

Source: Instagram

Bringing security, brand and CX together

The myth that convenience and security can’t coexist has led to a siloed approach from most. Instead, brands need to be following in the footsteps of Apple and working to build security up as a core pillar of their brand, not just a technical necessity running in the background.

on tips to earn trust
When a brand faces anything from bad reviews to a PR disaster, it takes work to maintain customer trust. Scott Greggory from MadAveGroup has advice that could work for either situation: use negative press to show how you’ll improve. Or follow brand strategist Nikki Weaver’s 5 golden rules for handling a crisis.

Written by Gail Ma, editing by Adelaide Anderson, 52 Words by Abby Clark, key visual by Alice Guo, page built by Patrick Brennan.
  1. Abi Tyas Tunngal, What is the Cost of a Data Breach in 2022? (3 October 2022) UpGuard.
  2. Infosys, Data Breaches: The Brand Impact (2022) Infosys.
  3. Edward Kost, 11 Biggest Data Breaches in Australia (Includes 2022 Attacks) (29 September 2022) UpGuard.
  4. Caroline Riches & Rashida Yousfzai, Optus faces a customer exodus, calls for compensation amid anger over leaked data (25 September 2022) SBS News.
  5. Christos Makridis, Can Data Breaches Be Good For Some Corporate Brands? (25 September 2022) Forbes.
  6. Olivia Krauth, Consumers now value security over convenience on apps and devices, report says (29 January 2019) TechRepublic.
  7. Henry Zwartz, Australia should adopt 'gold standard' in data laws after Optus leak (29 September 2022) UNSW Sydney Newsroom.
  8. Tom Ryan, Will Apple’s privacy positioning remake digital marketing? (25 March 2022) RetailWire.
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