I grew up being taught the 4 P's of Marketing (Price, Product, Promotion, Place). You didn't have to be best in all of them but you needed to excel in one or be good in most to beat your competition. 

These days, you need to add purpose to that mix. If you're even with a competitor in the other four or even slightly behind, connecting with a purpose can put you over the edge. For instance, a calculated stand and initiative on gun safety, if it fits your target audience, can be exactly what you need to push you over the edge.  

Purpose, in fact, may wind up being the predominate buzz word of 2019. "Race and gender issues are top of mind right now across the country," said Rod Adams, talent acquisition leader at PwC, which is helping advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace through the CEO Action initiative. "We all have blind spots. Let's address them. We know it will make us a more successful, resilient company."

How We Communicate Has Changed

A brand can no longer dictate its message to three broadcast networks. People seek out brands, connect with brands and stay with the ones that continue to have a purpose. Loyal customers identify with the purpose just as much if not more than the product. 

Have you ever met someone who wear Tom's shoes or owns a YETI cooler? Those aren't products, they are a lifestyle. 

But brands are getting even smarter about purpose and as entrepreneurs, you should too. It's simple mathematics and there are no accidents. When brands takes a stand on gun violence, equal pay, or any other important issue of our time, don't think for a second that they haven't crunched the numbers and already know if their customers will agree with them or not.

Airbnb is an example I use often. Postmates is another good one. Predominantly in urban areas, mostly on the coasts, they can afford to be more liberal in the stands they take than other brands because their user base skews heavily liberal. 

The inverse is also true. Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A don't lose any business for being conservative. 

Be Loved, Not Tolerated By Your Customers

"In today's competitive business climate, we think it's better to be deeply loved by some rather than inoffensive to all," said Christopher Miller, social mission activism manager at Ben & Jerry's. "Our activism campaigns, whether focused on the refugee crisis in Europe or systemic racism in the US, may be seen as controversial or even risky, but are really neither."

By taking an all-approach, "we can not only drive impactful change, we also create deeper and longer-lasting relationships with our fans around a shared set of values," he said.

As you collect data about your target customers, remember that what's important to them may be the most important thing you need to know right now. Not where they shop or how much time they spend on your site, but how can you create a deep, meaningful connection with them. 

Like Ben & Jerry's says, find a way to be loved by your customers rather than worrying about who you may offend. 

Published on: Jul 13, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.