I’m bald. Actually, strike that…I shave my head. Which makes my lack of hair a hairstyle rather than a trait.


As a result, I buy a lot of shaving cream. More, I imagine, than the average consumer in my gender/age/income bracket. Unless you count those idiots shaving their chest, arms and other bits. That’s ok at 20. You have these things called abs. Pushing 50, not so much.


I bring this up because this week students in our first career class are meeting with their Career Coach for the first time. A relationship that will flower over their two years in our college and, if all goes to plan, result in a beautiful bouquet called employment. In order for this relationship to bear fruit, my students must come up with the answer to a question seems simple enough; what do you want to do?


Some have it all figured out already. Some just think they do. Others are terrified. Our Career Coaches help take the terror out of the answer to that question. They can’t take the terror out of answering it. A student has to decide that for themselves.


To do that, I ask students to do research. Talk to professionals. Read job descriptions. Do some homework. Why? Because many have no idea what their chosen degree prepares them to do. Finance students tell me they want to be financial analysts. Awesome, what do they do? Well…they analyze finances. Management students tell me they will manage….something…or someone…


And then there are my marketing students. I love them! Eternally enthusiastic and optimistic. So I ask, what is marketing? Many times they confuse it with promotion. Here’s the difference:


As I said, I buy a lot of shaving cream. A marketing professional takes that point of sale data that my drug store gathers by swiping my rewards card to find out when I buy shaving cream. How much do I buy. How often do I buy it. What brands do I buy. They correlate the data with sales and other store events to see if that has an impact on my purchasing habits. By crunching that data, the wise marketer can strategies that increase not only my probability of buying shaving cream at that drug store, but increase my purchasing frequency, strengthen brand loyalty, or even couple my purchases to related (or even unrelated) products. That’s marketing.


Promotion is dressing someone with abs in spandex and putting them on the aisle cap with a can of shaving cream so housewives can rub his tummy…. Got it?