These Marketers Left Their Client-Side Jobs to Launch a Do-It-All Experiential Agency

Grow handles experiences for brands like Gap and Google

Cassie Hughes, chief strategy officer (l.), and Gabrey Means, CCO, founded the agency in San Francisco. Grow Marketing
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Almost two decades ago, Cassie Hughes and Gabrey Means were both working on the marketing teams of San Francisco-based retailers—Hughes at Levi’s and Means at Banana Republic. After an introduction from a mutual friend, the two split a bottle of wine and discussed how the agencies they both worked with were great partners, but were too specialized. “They could create an idea but couldn’t come up with an activation to save their lives,” said Hughes.

So the two founded Grow, an experiential marketing agency that’s worked with brands like Google, PepsiCo, Target and Visa. Hughes and Means credit their development of a cross-industry client roster to the power of experiential viral hits. This work can take on many forms, from onetime events to a traveling experience like the “Tiny Schoolhouse” the agency created for KinderCare learning centers, set to pop up at family-friendly hot spots across America.

Experiential can be stressful. Hughes recalls a recent activation in Canada that hit a snafu when materials got stuck in customs. “Our team was able to recreate all of the assets and the experience overnight just by being problem solvers,” said Hughes. That sort of quick thinking is a key to Grow’s work. As Hughes said: “You’ve got to be a duck and paddle under the water.”

Lea Michele and the New York City Gay Men's Chorus sang Christmas carols to promote Old Navy's "Buy Online. Pickup In-Store" program.
On Abbot Kinney in Venice, Calif., Grow hosted a pop-up to demonstrate the capabilities of the Google Home device with three YouTube creators.
Grow worked with skin-care brand Ole Henriksen to put on the brand's "Glow Tour" event at the Wanderlust Festival in Santa Monica, Calif.
This story first appeared in the March 18, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@dianapearl_ Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.