ON WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 15TH, Marie and Bunky Griffin will be running a workshop at Stanford titled What's Your Catnip?
Over the course of twenty-two years, these two sisters have finessed the art of marketing and public relations, working with an impressive list of clients including David Beckham for Belstaff, Hermes of Paris, Lady Gaga, Wilhelmina Models and WhoWhatWear.
Marie's career began at the age of nineteen when she became an Editor for Seventeen Magazine. Since then she has worked as the US Director of Promostyl, a Paris-based think tank and as the VP of Global Marketing and New Business Development at pop culture research firm POP-EYE. Marie, then founded Griffin Marketing & PR, as she calls it "a Media Training meets Branding and Broadcast Media PR firm", eventually bringing on her sister Bunky. Their skill sets complement one another in the most stunning of ways and has resulted in the curation of a loyal and unparalleled clientele.
We were lucky enough to learn more about the world of marketing, PR and What's Your Catnip from Marie and Bunky earlier this week.
PULSE: CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR WORKSHOP AND WHY YOU DEVELOPED IT?
MARIE GRIFFIN: Our clients go from eleven to seventy. And, all of them are challenged in some ways whether they are established or new about what their catnip is. What makes them desirable for the job? Why should we hire them for the job? Why should we listen to them? Why should we vote for them? Why should we give them our money? Why should investors invest in them?
It all comes down to honing in. If you look into marketing and PR over the past few years and decades it's been heavily based on story-telling and to a certain extent story-telling works. That’s why you fall in love with brands. But especially with your generation today, it’s very fast. And so Catnip is the fast — it’s not your whole brand DNA deck. Catnip goes right to the point of who somebody is: their special value and brand. Catnip is a process that happens over a lifetime.
That’s what makes you, you. There’s only one catnip for you.
P: WHAT'S YOUR CATNIP?
MG: We are trusted. We pick up the phone and people say: ‘we were told you were the best.’
P: WHAT DO YOU HOPE STUDENTS WALK AWAY WITH FROM YOUR WORKSHOP?
MG: What we what students to leave with are the tools that will help you identify, curate and articulate your catnip.
P: WHAT WERE SOME LESSONS THAT YOU'VE LEARNED ALONG THE WAY?
MG: The thing that we have learned most about media and communications training is that everybody's got something. There's good and bad. That’s what makes us connect to one another and that’s what makes brands connect. That is authenticity — everyone has something.
P: WHAT WOULD YOU CREDIT YOUR SUCCESS TO?
MG: Absolutely the fact that we are trusted. We are deeply trusted.
We do media training for everyone from ingenues and startups to legends and leaders. There are major people we work with, and we are so proud of that. They know that they are in the most trusted and discreet hands with us, and we do work that is truly transformational.
P: HOW DOES ONE GET THE OPPORTUNITY TO WORK WITH YOU?
MG: For twenty-two years it has been 100% referral. We have never even had a website.
P: SO WAS THAT A PR AND MARKETING MOVE ON YOUR END?
Yes, and reputation. Your name is everything. We are planning to launch a site soon because What's Your Catnip has really taken things to a new level and we want to share that in a bigger way. So, we will have one, but to date we have never had one, and that is something we are really proud of.
P: HOW DO YOU PREPARE YOUR CLIENTS?
MG: I have to say, I’m completely intuitive.
Bunk and I research. We’ve had people come and sit down and say ‘you know more about me than my best friend does.’ We research like crazy. [We research] not only the client coming in, but the entire competitive landscape and world they’re in. We have experience in the media, being on the other side of the media, being the recipient of the media. Being able to watch this process for so many years — working in trends, working in marketing, working in forecasting, all of the things that we have done allow us to know what is going to make it work for somebody in a very unique way.
P: HOW SHOULD WE DIFFERENTIATE OURSELVES AS STANFORD STUDENTS, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME LEVERAGE?
MG: This is something we are going to talk about on Wednesday.
What’s natural here is that how much your struggle is similar to somebody working. In the sense that right now makeup artists are big deals. They are really, really big deals. They are famous, they make a lot of money, they get a lot of press. So many times, cosmetic companies have these makeup artists that are rockstars that people follow and like and love and are greatly talented. We are called in to create the congruence between the makeup artist and the brand that they are working for. So that’s where a lot of that magic comes in. The makeup artists are selected by a brand because they have unique talents that are aligned with the brand, but the brand wants that makeup person to keep their own rockstar brand and so does the person. We have this very fine line of enhancing his or her own individual catnip and marrying it with brand’s catnip.
Yes, the fact that you are a Stanford student is major. Then you have to look at the value of Stanford and what is Stanford's catnip. Why did you pick it? Now take away the diploma. There’s still you, standing on your own two feet. It’s really the marriage of two mega-brands, you and Stanford, and how you fit is really unique to each student.
P: WHERE SHOULD WE START IF WE ARE INTERESTED IN WORKING IN MARKETING AND/OR PUBLIC RELATIONS?
MG: Internships. Intern. Intern. Intern and make them vary. Do tons of different things in internships so you start to identify what you like and what you don’t like and it is absolutely essential that you read ravenously. And, listen. Develop your listening skills. You’re going to be around incredible people in internships so watch and listen a lot.
P: HOW WOULD YOU RECOMMEND LEVERAGING A TECHNICAL BACKGROUND IF WE WANT TO WORK IN MARKETING AND/OR PUBLIC RELATIONS?
MG: There’s no better time for any conceivable business to have a strong technical background no matter what you’re doing. That’s a sensational advantage. The work that Bunk and I do is heavily in the EI space — emotional intelligence, which is also very essential. But, I don't think there has been any time better than now — everybody will be looking for that in new hires.
This is a real challenge for PR people because clients' funds today are in many cases more limited but they’re spreading them out in places where they have never spread them out before. The formula was very simple many years ago. It was X magazines, it was X television spots, it was X whatever. Today they have to be incredibly creative with how they spend their marketing money and they want every single cent to somehow be quantified. We had a client the other day saying that ‘we need to know what the return on investment is for every PR effort’ and I don’t believe it’s that simple. It’s just not that simple.
It’s like, how people got famous was by going on Oprah. All you had to do was that one thing. Tory Burch on Oprah, Spanx on Oprah, and people became an overnight success. But there is no more Oprah. This spend is not a guaranteed sale.
P: DO YOU SEE TECHNOLOGY AND BIG DATA PLAYING A ROLE IN HOW FIRMS APPROACH MARKETING AND/OR PUBLIC RELATIONS?
MG: Yes, they want this quantification and it’s very hard to determine because today, it happens in 85 million different ways. It has to happen in many, many different ways and you can’t just pin the tail on the donkey of the one thing and how much money a company made based on one little move. But they want that, and think that you guys are going to be able to put it on a silver platter because you have all this experience in data, when data is not that simple.
But then take the WhoWhatWear girls, from Clique Brand Inc.; we did their book launch and they are brilliant, brilliant, brilliant women. And what they did was, they had all the data, they created content, they looked and said wait a minute we know every single thing this girl wants. We know the exact skirt she wants, the heel length, the heel height, the color and we are going to develop our own collection.
That is the perfect example of this very now moment of creativity — of taking an idea and mixing it with data to create something brand new. When the who what when girls were able to go into a meeting with Target, they said, we can guarantee you X amount of clicks a day, eyeballs a day, we can guarantee you that that jacket, that bag, that shoe will sell because this girl has shown us she wants this and this and it's a win-win. There’s your magic.