- Solo Stove, the creator of a smokeless fire pit, is again sparking discussions in the marketing arena, though probably not for reasons the company had hoped.
- The Solo Brands-owned product first grabbed headlines in November after naming Snoop Dogg its official “smokesman.” The campaign followed a cryptic post from the cannabis-friendly rapper teasing that he was “giving up smoke” — though not smoking — leading to speculation that his pledge was a marketing stunt.
- The bait-and-switch strategy initially appeared successful, with Solo Stove generating earned media and receiving a bump in social engagement. However, the pricey celebrity ambassador play did not deliver the expected sales lift, a sign that the marketer missed the mark with its core customer base of outdoor enthusiasts.
Solo Stove closed out 2023 with a campaign that ticked many of the boxes for marketing success. The Snoop Dogg-led effort piqued consumers’ interest with a mysterious social media post, leading to loads of online chatter and speculation. The eventual reveal that the rapper’s vow to “give up smoke” was actually in reference to his outdoor fire pit preferences and not his well-known love of pot drummed up additional media attention and felt like it could pave the way for a holiday sales boost. The campaign, which was developed with The Martin Agency, also represented Solo Stove’s first national marketing push, raising the stakes.
A few weeks into 2024, it’s clear the creative ploy did not go off without its hitches. At the same time, the company is undergoing leadership changes. Solo Brands, which markets other outdoor lifestyle products like Oru Kayak, Isle and Icy Breeze, started the new year with former CEO John Merris agreeing to “mutually separate” from the company, according to a financial statement. Christopher Metz, most recently chief executive of Vista Outdoor, was appointed Solo Brands president, CEO and director of the board on Jan. 15.
In a press release detailing the company’s updated 2023 financials, Solo Brands said that full-year revenue is expected to land in the range of $490 million to $500 million versus prior guidance of $520 million to $540 million. Executives did not mince words regarding the Snoop Dogg partnership’s impact on performance.
“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,” said CFO Andrea Tarbox in a statement. “We believe there is a significant opportunity for us to build awareness and that these new campaigns will expand our reach and benefit our brands over the long term.”
The reversal in fortunes has produced loads of analysis about the state of creativity in marketing and ensuring an ambassador is the right match for a product. Solo Brands, which went public in 2021 and has focused on direct-to-consumer offerings, seemed to be doing well in the first half of 2023, expanding its wholesale footprint to a number of retailers, only for a marketing misstep to undercut some of those gains.
While the long-term impact of the Snoop Dogg campaign remains to be seen, what is clear is that the brand's marketing strategy has been more focused on an outdoorsy positioning in the past.
“We believe that we have been successful in marketing our products by associating our brand and products with outdoor activities to be experienced with family and friends,” the company wrote in its 2022 annual report.
“To sustain long-term growth, we must not only continue to successfully promote our products to consumers who identify with or aspire to these activities, as well as to individuals who value the differentiated function, high quality, and specialized design of our products, but also promote new products with which we may not have experience and attract more customers to our existing products,” the report continues. “If we fail to successfully market and sell our products to our existing customers or expand our customer base, our sales could decline or we may be unable to grow our business.”
Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify the details of Solo Brands’ leadership changes. They are not directly related to the outcome of the Snoop Dogg campaign.