149: Marie Griffin – Finding Your Catnip


“What is catnip? Catnip is powerful, memorable, and very fast. Everybody has a story, but the decisions that you make about people and brands is much faster than the story.”
Marie Griffin

Hello, my friends! Welcome to another episode of the Onken Radio podcast (previously NION Radio), the podcast where we explore the body, mind, and soul of the creative entrepreneur. It’s my goal to help you take your creativity, business, and life to the next level. I’m so glad you’re joining me on this journey! 

Today, I’m excited about my special guest Marie Griffin, the founder of Griffin Marketing and PR. Marie’s developed a wealth of experience working with many high-level celebrities, (Stella McCartney, to name one) helping them with their PR and media training. Marie is focused on helping you deliver your message to the world in a very clear way. 

Here’s a quick taste of what’s to come from my interview with Marie:

“Keep chipping and chipping and chipping away so that [your message] is just absolutely you. For someone like [Nick Onken with] so much talent, so many interests, and so many ways of expressing themselves — [the major question is] ‘How are you going to package all that and put a bow on it and own it?’”
Marie Griffin

When we see people who dominate in our chosen professional field, it’s almost impossible not to know their work when we see it. Still, often creatives have a hard time figuring out what sets them apart from their peers, and this is where Marie comes in. She has a trusted, holistic method to find this part of our brand, our “CATNIP,” and the process has been described as “honest, insightful, grounding, and transformative.” 

Marie uses her wealth of knowledge to help big companies and brands refine their messaging to connect with consumers as well as transform some of the biggest stars in entertainment to help make their messaging congruent. 

Congruence is when the inside and the outside match, and Marie believes this is as vital when conveying your message through body language as it is with how you speak. Her passion and commitment to help people are demonstrated by her clients and her innovative program #whatsyourcatnip

In this episode, we discuss how to find what is uniquely you, some of Marie’s tips for finding your CATNIP, and what helps you stand out in a world full of competitors.

Who Is Marie Griffin?

Marie Griffin is the sought-after authority in media and communication training for leaders and personalities in business, film, fashion, music, beauty, sports, media, wellness, and design. Her immersive process is informed by a profound understanding of people and a deep knowledge of the media, branding, marketing, and public relations landscapes. Marie’s hallmark is her one-on-one work from the inside out to elevate clients to their highest potential to help them answer the question, “What’s your catnip?”

As the second of four girls, Marie grew up in Scarsdale, New York in the sixties. Both her elementary school and high school were Catholic all-girls schools where she constantly felt tremendously supported and empowered by the nuns — always believing there was nothing she couldn’t do. Marie used their support to fuel the fact that she always knew she wanted to be involved in fashion. 

Marie’s dream was to work for a magazine, and when it came time for school, Marie chose the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising, which is now LIM College in New York City. Located in Manhattan, the college was perfectly positioned to help her get an internship right out of the gate with Seventeen

Marie grabbed this opportunity with both hands and, still only 19 years old, was offered a job by Seventeen starting as soon as she graduated. Marie was immediately dropped into the deep end and sent on a 48-city tour around the country to do “meet and greet” events with retailers supporting the magazine. Among other things, she started to produce fashion shows and promote advertisers, all while building relationships with the models and cover girls. 

Some years later, Marie was put forward to run the New York office for Promostyl, a think tank for trend forecasting in the world — the first of its kind. As co-director running the New York branch, Marie worked with the best brands in the world by taking global trends and reinterpreting them for each specific client.

Marie decided to move to LA and became involved in another business POP-EYE, where she controlled all the new business development marketing. POP-EYE documented pop culture on video for Fortune 500 corporations, showing them, in a very raw format without any re-interpretation, what was happening with 18 to 34-year-olds. Marie signed major players like Coke, Pepsi, Sony, and Warner Brothers to name a few, and guided them through the early nineties, which was a complete explosion of change, and turned market insights into company strategies. 

Finally, the time came where Marie wanted to return to New York, and this is where she started Griffin Marketing and PR — the beginning of taking all her years of knowledge and experience and transforming it into the CATNIP model. 

Let’s jump right in and hear all about it!

What is CATNIP?

After decades of dealing intimately with corporates, multinationals, and brands to help them connect with their audiences, Marie started to recognize a consistent pattern with everyone she worked with: They all really struggled to define what their essence is and what makes them different from everyone else. It’s not an easy process, and it requires diligence to step back and reflect. Like most great ideas — CATNIP came to Marie in the shower. 

“What is CATNIP? CATNIP is powerful, it’s memorable and it’s very fast everybody has a story, but the decisions that you make about people and about brands are much faster than the story. All the decisions that you make — from where you’re going to dinner to whose jeans you’re wearing to whose music you’re listening to — [are] all coming [lightning fast]. That’s basically what CATNIP is — it’s what makes you stand out and what sets you apart. It’s not necessarily the prettiest, the fastest, the richest — everyone has CATNIP, and it’s completely unique to them.”
Marie Griffin

Marie decided to start with colleges and universities to give students a competitive advantage by jumpstarting the process of identifying, cultivating, and articulating what makes them unique early. 

Nobody else has your CATNIP because it’s a combination of life experiences. It could even be things that have happened in your life that aren’t “positive” but have formed who you are and have given you a platform to define who you are. 

With so much digital noise out there, you need to figure out how to stand out by figuring out your unique value — and most importantly be able to distill that message, articulate it, and communicate it effectively to whomever you’re talking to.

The work Marie does helps ground their clients no matter how crazy things might be around them by making sure they are able to handle any situation. Marie is on a mission to ensure that by the time you’re finished with her, you know who you are, you know what your values are, you know how to define yourself, and no one’s going to define you in a way that is not true to who you are.

How to Discover Your CATNIP

As with everything in life, it’s not the knowledge that’s powerful, it’s the application of knowledge into our own lives. Let’s discover how we can start discovering what our CATNIP is in a tangible and practical way.

Marie uses the example of what she did when she was approached for a position back in New York. For some reason it didn’t feel quite right — she knew she needed more but didn’t know exactly where to find it. All she had to start with was her deep desire to be involved with helping people on TV. 

“I got a stack of post-its, a sharpie, and a blank wall and [went] to work. In that process, just start putting up every possible thing on that wall — good and bad. What you’re good at? What you like, how you think, are you somebody who needs quiet, or do you need a lot of stimulation? Do you want to be at the desk? Do you want to be traveling a lot? Do you want to be half and half? Do you work always in a group?”
Marie Griffin

The more diligently and deeply Marie engaged with the process of writing everything she enjoyed and didn’t enjoy, the more she set herself up powerfully for phase two.

“When I was doing this process there were [job postings] in the New York Times, and I would read them and say, ‘I like that part of the job, I don’t like that part of the job. I’m really good at that, I don’t want to do this.’ I kept saying, ‘There’s no job that fits me — I have to go out and create my own.’ I knew television and loved television — no one owned that space, and to this day, 24 years later, nobody has a PR firm that only specializes in television.”
Marie Griffin

Marie understood that to build a successful company, she needed to understand what her core qualities were. 

“I’ve always been really trusted, and producers have to trust the story I’m bringing [them]. They have to trust that the talent I’m bringing is prepared, and they have to trust that there’ll be a really good story. I knew that was the way, but I started from scratch [to build] those relationships.”
Marie Griffin

Marie might have had zero experience in PR, but having worked through what her skill set was, what producers of shows were looking for, and how she could satisfy all those requirements, there was no turning back, and Griffin Marketing and PR was up and running. 

How a Creative Uses the Process

It’s one thing to understand this process in the corporate world of getting a job — it’s another story for us creatives to apply CATNIP in our lives, whether as a photographer, an artist, a designer, a writer, or whatever your outlet. Marie uses my love of photography as a way to help us grasp how important understanding our CATNIP is by breaking down all my creative outlets into a structured hierarchy.

“Let’s look at the whole photographic landscape and start to see what made somebody very identifiable. If you’re not in the photographic world [and] you put a bunch of photographs around a room and had people who are not in photography come around, [how would] they be able to find those core connections? What about your photography makes it only Nick Onken?”
Marie Griffin

Marie helped me break down the core essence of my photography into a style, of which I resonate with colorful, bright, joyful, and thoughtful. While I may not be involved in applying for a job, I do need to pitch to magazines as an example for shoots, and this is where understanding my CATNIP starts to make sense. Marie helped illustrate how I would use it to set myself apart by using Verizon as an example to pitch to.

“Look at Verizon ads — they all look the same, just all boring, boring, boring. Let’s say you have to leave that genre and go out into spaces that are not owned by you [and answer], ‘Why are we hiring Nick Onken?’ Well, clearly you need more color, more fun.”
Marie Griffin

Marie demonstrates that by using my CATNIP with Verizon, their ads could speak more to customers about why they would choose Verizon to get a phone — as well as have a throughline that is consistent with all my body of work. The style will immediately be different and create the question in their mind: “Is that Nick Onken?”

It’s not just about what I bring to the table but the vision I have for the shoot and the team that I build around that vision. CATNIP can even be the team you work with that executes the vision.  

The Formula for Identity Alchemy

Alchemy is defined as the process of taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary, sometimes in a way that cannot be explained.

With that being said, I define Identity Alchemy as the process of deconstructing who you don’t want to be in order to realize who you want to become. 

Through it, you’ll be able to identify your shadows or the things you don’t want to be true about you and shed them slowly. I believe that the deconstruction process of life and your inner world is such a huge piece of understanding who you are so that you can curate who you want to become. In general, I noticed for myself that the more inner work that I do — the deeper shadow work that I do to understand myself — the better life becomes towards the path of wholeness.

As a creative who is constantly pushing the boundaries of expressing my creativity, my conversation with Marie has left me feeling inspired about diving even deeper into how I articulate my creativity into the world and I look forward to using the process that Marie has shared with us. Marie’s passion and dedicated focus towards helping others are summed up in this final quote of hers:

“We just help put a spotlight on it and help people look more critically [at this question:] How do you take all those skills and bring them out into the world?”
Marie Griffin

If you’d like to connect with Marie or even work with her, you can visit the website where you will find more information as well as their contact details. Alternatively, you can connect on Instagram where you can also use and follow the hashtag #whatsyourcatnip

Thank you so much for joining me today, guys. I hope you enjoyed this episode on CATNIP — if you did, please screenshot it and post it to Instagram and tag Marie, @marietheresegriffin, and me, @nickonken. If you’ve got time, please leave me a review on Apple Podcasts because I’d love to hear your feedback.

If you haven’t checked out Onken Hats yet, they’re custom hats that I’ve been making for people which is a new endeavor of mine — it’s been a lot of fun, and people are loving them! 

I’ll catch you guys next time — now go live the creative lives you were meant for.

Nick Onken

You can Subscribe and Listen to the Podcast on Apple Podcasts. And please leave me a Rating and Review!


“We are excavators. We can dig and get the gold nuggets out, and figure out where the problems are [with a company’s spokesperson], and then come back with solutions.”
Marie Griffin

Some things we learn in this podcast:

  • How Marie and her company works with different brands [5:25]
  • How brands find their best spokesperson [8:45]
  • Marie’s early life and how she found herself on a 48-city tour when she was 19 years old [17:55]
  • The difference between being message trained and media trained [21:05]
  • Why entrepreneurs and marketing teams couldn’t figure out their own catnip for their brand [27:00]
  • What Marie means by finding your catnip [29:15]
  • How you can start finding your catnip [37:45]
  • What to do when you are interested in too many things [40:45]
  • How to fight for your vision and why you have to do it [43:30]
  • Why the process of developing our catnip is almost involuntary [53:00]
  • How to distill your catnip down to their three most important traits [55:15]
  • Marie’s assignment for those getting started in their career [1:01:45]
  • What “live inspiration” means to Marie [1:10:10]

Links mentioned:

Connect with Marie Griffin on Instagram | WhatsYourCatnip.com

A FREE email series to create a personal visual brand authentic to who you are.

  • Accelerate your personal brand growth through the Identity Alchemy Method
  • Discover the authentic stories you want to share with your audience
  • Build your personal brand vision and crystallize it with a photoshoot
  • Learn how to ideate and create storytelling visual assets to enhance and up-level your personal brand
  • .. PLUS! You’ll get access my brand building book recs and favorite resources

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