A CEO’s Misstep: How Solo Stove’s Snoop Dogg Campaign Went Up in Smoke

How Solo Stove's Snoop Dogg Campaign Went Up in Smoke
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The Big Smoke examines the critical lessons for CEOs in the aftermath of Solo Stove’s viral (yet failed) campaign with Snoop Dogg, shedding light on the balance between virality and sales conversion for brands.


Millions of people watched in November 2023 when Snoop Dog announced he would be giving up his trademark smoking habit, and 52 million tuned in when a video was released revealing that Snoop Dog was not in fact giving up smoking, and it was all a campaign to promote Solo Stove’s smokeless fire pit. The marketing world was lit aflame, and awards and LinkedIn posts were flying left and right. Due to the campaign’s obvious success, it came as a great surprise to everyone when the CEO of Solo Stove, John Merris stepped down, with the CFO at the time heavily implying the Snoop Dogg campaign was a major factor. Which begs the question, why did a campaign once slated to “go down as one of the best” lead to the exit of John Merris as Solo Stove’s CEO?

And perhaps more importantly, how can you avoid making the same mistake within your organisation?

The aftermath 

The Snoop Dogg campaign did great in terms of awareness for Solo Stove. The company gained 60 thousand Instagram followers, there over 50 million impressions, and its Google Trends search volume shot from 24 to 100. But while the campaign was a massive PR success, it failed to do one thing – convert. Let’s dive into why. 

Snoop Dogg

First up in the post mortem is their decision to use Snoop Dogg as the face of the campaign. This choice can be ruled out fairly easily. Snoop Dogg has spent the past decade cleaning up his image and has a great track record and involvement in advertising campaigns that convert (who can forget his viral Just Eat campaign). 

With this in mind, the decision to use Snoop Dogg was not necessarily a bad one. In fact, something that contributed to the failure of the campaign to convert was the underutilization of Snoop. 

Instead of just a once-off marketing stunt, this video could have been the first step in a multi-channel ad campaign with Snoop Dogg’s name and likeness used to stop users amidst their scrolls with a clear call to action. But instead, the campaign was allowed to fizzle out and for most people, that was the first and last time they heard of Solo Stove. 

Betrayal 

While the idea of Snoop Dogg giving up smoke and then later promoting a smokeless fire sounds great at a surface level, it brushes a little too close with what consumers keep telling brands they value – trust

There were four days between the time Snoop Dogg announced he was giving up smoke to the time he revealed it was a marketing gimmick. Within those four days, his most engaged fans applauded him, praised him, wrote emotional religious messages to him, and some lifelong smokers even vowed to quit with him. 

So it was not a surprise that some people felt betrayed when it was revealed that it was all a lie. The unfortunate part for Solo Stove is that those who felt the most betrayed are also those who would have been easiest to convert. And instead of turning on their favourite celebrity, they turned on the company they felt made him deceive them. 

Budget misalignment 

Among the news that the CEO was leaving, the CFO of Solo Stove released the following statement: 

“While our unique marketing campaigns raised brand awareness of Solo Stove to an expanded and new audience of consumers, it did not lead to the sales lift that we had planned, which, combined with the increased marketing investments, negatively impacted our EBITDA.”

This paints a picture clear as day. Solo Stove employed a long-term strategy on a short-term budget. 

This highlights the importance of having clear expectations and KPIs for a campaign as well as someone in the room who will ask the tough questions – such as, how exactly will this generate sales? And if the answer is a game of chance, relies on the potential customer to demonstrate a great amount of initiative, or fill in the blanks about your company, then you have likely missed a few steps in your funnel. 

It takes an average of eight touchpoints to make a sale. And without the follow-up sales campaign, Solo Stove had one great, but fleeting touchpoint with its target market. 

How to avoid this mistake

If you have made it this far you are probably wondering if your marketing strategy is the right fit for your goals and how you can avoid this same mistake. There are a few things you can take away that will minimise this risk. 

1. Viral does not have to mean fleeting. While viral moments are great, they should be the starting point, not the end, of your marketing funnel. Your team should be using the momentum of a viral campaign to fuel ongoing engagement through multi-channel marketing strategies. 

2. Your customers don’t like being the butt of the joke. Consumers value authenticity and transparency from brands. Avoid marketing tactics that could be perceived as deceptive or that might betray the trust of your audience.

You can use surprises and reveals in a way that strengthens your relationship with your audience. 

3. Ask the tough questions. Every marketing campaign should have clear objectives that tie back to your overall business goals and sales targets. Sometimes it pays to be the buzzkill in the room that breaks down the idea that everyone is excited about. It doesn’t have to kill the idea – it can make it better and more effective for the company. 

4. Set a realistic goal based on your budget. If your budget can only last three months before the CEO needs to be let go, then you should not be undergoing a large-scale, long-term awareness campaign. Scale it down while focusing on sales campaigns to put you in a position where you can afford to take big awareness swings.

Create authentic campaigns that convert

Want to ensure your marketing strategy is aligned with your goals? Reach out to The Big Smoke. Together, we’ll refine your approach to create impactful campaigns that truly resonate with your audience.

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