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CEO fired after Snoop Dogg’s ‘giving up smoke’ ad all smoke and no fire

Jan 19

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He orchestrated one of the best viral advertisements of the year, calling on rapper and weed enthusiast Snoop Dogg to give up smoke for Solo Stove. Then the bold move backfired, costing him his job.

Solo Stove parent company Solo Brands announced this month that they are replacing CEO John Merris with former Vista Outdoor Inc. CEO Christopher Metz, mere weeks after the fire pit brand was the talk of the town.

Here’s how it all went wrong for Merris, the man behind the surprise Snoop Dogg collaboration.

In a Nov. 16, 2023 Instagram post, Snoop Dogg said he was giving up smoke. The post had nearly 5 million likes and duped fans and media organizations around the globe, who inferred he was quitting smoking marijuana.

“I know what you’re thinking. Snoop, smoke is kinda your whole thing! But I’m done with it,” Snoop said in an advertisement released just days later, revealing that the smoke he was referring to was the one around the Solo Stove fire pit.

This set off another firestorm of articles clarifying that notorious marijuana consumer Snoop Dogg was not, in fact, quitting smoking.

The Solo Stove advertisement had more than 50 million views on Instagram alone. AdAge ranked the collaboration the 18th-best advertisement of 2023. 

John Merris, the CEO of Solo Brands, said the campaign had nearly 7 billion impressions. He wrote a 44-post thread on X about how they scored the “Doggfather of smoke” as Solo Stove’s first-ever spokesperson.

It turns out, however, the ad was all smoke and no fire. While the campaign raised brand awareness and expanded Solo Stove’s audience, “it did not lead to the sales lift that we had planned,” Solo Brands interim CFO Andrea Tarbox said. 

Plus, paying Snoop Dogg for his endorsement was not cheap. Solo Brands said the increased marketing investment negatively impacted the company’s earnings for the year.

The company announced that as of Jan. 15, Merris is out and Metz is in.

“Our board is confident that Chris is the right person to grow shareholder value,” Solo Brands Board Chairman Matt Hamilton said.

From Kickstarter to $500 million in revenue

Two brothers started Solo Stove with no other employees for years. In 2016, they launched the fire pit as a Kickstarter campaign, ultimately sparking more than $1.1 million in investments. 

The brothers brought on John Merris as CEO in 2018, looking for an experienced executive to expand the brand. And that’s exactly what Merris did.

He not only built out Solo Stove and took Solo Brands public; he acquired Oru Kayak, paddleboard-maker Isle, cooling company IcyBreeze and apparel brand Chubbies.

Solo Brands is expected to make about $500 million in annual revenue this year, though that number was adjusted down from previous estimates of $520 million to $540 million. It’s a far cry from Kickstarter, but now Merris’ flame has fizzled out.

“John was instrumental in building Solo Brands into the company it is today,” Hamilton said. “We wish him all the best for the next step in his career.”

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Snoop Dogg: I have an announcement. I’m giving up smoke. I know what you’re thinking. 

Simone Del Rosario:

I bet you weren’t thinking the CEO of the company behind this viral ad was about to be fired. But that’s exactly what happened. Here’s how it all went down.

Remember when Snoop Dogg said he was giving up smoke? The Instagram post had nearly 5 million likes and duped media orgs around the globe.

Snoop Dogg: I know what you’re thinking. Snoop, smoke is kinda your whole thing! But I’m done with it.

Simone Del Rosario: Days later, the weed enthusiast revealed the smoke he was referring to was the one around the fire pit. 

Snoop Dogg: Solo Stove fixed fire. They take out the smoke. Clever.

Simone Del Rosario:

The ad had more than 50 million views on Instagram alone. Clever indeed. Or was it? The ad had everyone talking. AdAge ranked the collab the 18th best ad of 2023. And John Merris, the CEO of Solo Brands, wrote a 44-post-thread on X about how they scored the “Doggfather of Smoke” as Solo Stove’s first-ever spokesperson.

One month later, it all backfired for him. Because while the ad raised brand awareness and expanded Solo Stove’s audience, it did not lead to the sales lift that we had planned, interim CFO Andrea Tarbox said. 

Snoop Dogg: That’s the whole purpose of the commercial, right?

Simone Del Rosario: Right. Plus, paying Snoop’s not cheap! And the increased marketing investment negatively impacted the company’s earnings. 

Snoop Dogg: This heat is hella hot!

Simone Del Rosario:

The company announced John Merris is out, and Vista Outdoor CEO Christopher Metz is in.

Two brothers started Solo Stove with no other employees for years. In 2016 they launched the fire pit as a Kickstarter campaign, ultimately sparking more than $1.1 million in investments. The brothers brought on John Merris as CEO in 2018, looking for an experienced executive to expand the brand.

And that’s exactly what Merris did…not only building out Solo Stove, but acquiring Oru Kayak, paddleboard-maker Isle, cooling company IcyBreeze and apparel brand Chubbies, which has its own ad skills.

George Kittle: Hey I’m George Kittle, the people’s tight end. The people at Chubbies asked me to do a teaser video to get people hyped about my upcoming collection with them. But they said I absolutely cannot wear the clothing. Doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense to me but supposedly they’re the “marketing experts.”

Simone Del Rosario: Solo Brands is expected to make about half a billion in annual revenue this year. A far cry from Kickstarter, but now Merris’ flame has fizzled out. Solo Brands says Metz is the right choice for the next chapter of growth, acknowledging, “John was instrumental in building Solo Brands into the company it is today.

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