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My 3 Years At picnic social: Putting the Soul into Marketing

marketing soul
Josh Gradilone with Molly Sprague of Good Space Plans Online

Our content strategist, Josh Gradilone, looks back at his 3 years at picnic before he leaves and reflects on the important lessons he’s learned. 

If you told 18-year-old Josh he would be a marketer at 23 he might just laugh in your face. Now don’t get me wrong, nothing’s wrong with marketing. However, it wasn’t on my agenda. 

I moved to Vancouver from Calgary in 2016 to live what I thought my purpose was: to be a screenwriter, artist, and poet. When I heard the word marketing I would assume it was only about metrics, numbers, and getting the bottom line done. I understood these things were important to make a living, but it didn’t make me feel alive. 

I accepted work as SNAP’s intern, thinking it would be a temporary gig to help me while I continued the search for my life’s purpose. Three years later, I’m still in marketing at picnic, and what’s more shocking is, I’m rather good at it. When I first realized this would probably be my life’s path instead of screenwriting, I was concerned. But everything changed when I watched Disney Pixar’s Soul.

Looking for Spark not Purpose

From Wikimedia Commons

Spoilers ahead.

I won’t go too deep into the plot of Soul (but if you haven’t seen it, watch it!). However, I will talk about what the main character, Joe Gardner, discovers when faced with the difference between “having purpose” and “a spark.” Purpose is the great plan we have for in life. But these are quick to change at a whim’s notice. Remember last year when all of our plans were suddenly disrupted and we had to pivot because of COVID? Life is unpredictable and we can’t plan our purposes too rigidly or we become disillusioned. 

Instead, what I discovered from the movie and my job in marketing is my purpose in life doesn’t matter too much. What matters is my spark or the thing that makes me feel fulfilled. Marketing has allowed me to find my spark in three important areas:

  1. Working with fascinating and passionate people,
  2. Finding the “why” in what makes a company or brand different,
  3. Giving back to the community and creating positive change in the world. 

None of these 3 ideas were things I considered at first to be found in marketing. But that’s what made my time with picnic different. Read below to find how I was able to put my soul into marketing while at picnic. 

1. The Characters I got to Meet 

Behind every brand is a living and beating heart of the company’s owner. They have a unique voice and ideas that shouldn’t be overlooked. Above all, I try to enfuse their own selves into everything I do and then elevate it. 

Take Good Space Plans Online, the online interior design company we’ve worked with for 2 years now. Dwaina and Molly are a mother and daughter team who have found their groove together working in a family business (not an easy task!). Molly is cheerful, extroverted, and personable, Dwaina is methodical, thoughtful, and a visionary. Above all, they are passionate. It makes my job easier as a marketer when I get to imbue their passion for what they do into my work. 

It’s not just Dwaina and Molly. I get to meet exciting and innovative entrepreneurs from all walks of life from this job. I’m not just marketing a brand or a product. I’m marketing the people behind the product. Anyone can get interior design, but not everyone can get a Dwaina and Molly interior design project where you become the focus and feel like you’re part of a family. 

2. Finding the Why 

As Simon Sinek always nails down: “you need to find your why”. The why is what motivates you to get out of bed and do your job. Are your motivations only to make money, increase followers, and get conversions? These are all important and you do need to make money in order to sustain yourself. However, in an oversaturated online market, you also need to provide something different. 

When SNAP rebranded to picnic last year, it really made me sit down and think about our why. As the world was increasingly going digital with the pandemic, our clients suddenly needed more help navigating this new landscape. 

  • Helped Bombay Brow with their online engagement even when their brick and mortar stores were closed.
  • We created online health sessions for Thuja Wellness,
  • Highlighted small businesses in Vancouver with Good Space Plans Online. 

What this had me discover is picnic’s why. The reason we are here is to support and elevate our small business clients with innovation and collaboration. I can look at each of our clients and name at least 3 things that make them one-of-a-kind and extraordinary. When a marketer truly believes in the why behind their clients, it shows in the monetary and numerical results. 

3. Giving Back to the Community

My biggest spark in life is giving back to the community. I love impacting change and leaving a positive mark on the world. When I first started marketing, I didn’t think this would be possible. Now I realize what I’m doing is giving back to the community through marketing, especially with small businesses.

In September 2020, Ushi Mart and picnic discussed a different way to do their holiday campaign. Instead of just selling, we proposed a public relations strategy to be part of their marketing plan. Ashley from Ushi Mart agreed and then suggested she host a winter holiday market to help small businesses around Hamilton. From the winter market we were able to:

  • Directly help over 50 vendors from around Hamilton, 
  • Raise over $800 for Wesley Urban Ministries, helping to prevent homelessness in Hamilton, Ontario. 
  • Raise $350 for Oldowan Blackboard, a Hamilton skateboard collective to help Black youth, with $125 going to grocery cards.

From this market I can say with confidence the work I did in marketing directly gave back to the community. Take that 18-year-old Josh who once thought marketing couldn’t change the world!

Leaving something better than you first found it. 

I’m very proud of the work I’ve done with picnic and what I’ve learned and accomplished. It hasn’t always been easy. There have been days where I’ve struggled to see anything I do as important. But I remind myself now to look back at the colourful and fascinating people I get to work with who like my ideas. To remember I am in charge of bringing a brand to life and making it stand out from the crowd. Ultimately, I am at the service of keeping small businesses alive and leaving them better than I found them. 

I’ve helped every client I’ve worked with grow in some way whether it was through their followers, conversions, or brand identity. In turn, they’ve helped me grow too. I’m so grateful for my time here at picnic. I have learned not just the type of marketer I am, but also more about the human being underneath that. 

I am leaving picnic better than when I first started, with my head held high, and my soul clear. 

Thanks for the three great years, cheers! 

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