‘We broke the internet’

Communication Environmental Studies
January 4, 2024

In the days before they helped set the world ablaze with an ad campaign for the ages, Chris Dickey ’03 and his public relations team knew this Snoop Dogg business was a high-stakes affair.

They knew the whole operation could go up in smoke if not properly executed.

Surely you know the basics of the recent Snoop coup? If you were lost in a fog last year and missed it, here’s a brief recap, along with the inside dope on how a Denison alum helped fan a pop culture conflagration.

Leveraging social media and the power of suggestion, Snoop dropped an Instagram bomb on Nov. 16, 2023, hinting that he was swearing off marijuana.

“After much consideration & conversation with my family, I’ve decided to give up smoke. Please respect my privacy at this time.”

Accompanying the statement was a black-and-white photo of a reflective Snoop, complete with praying hands.

This was big news, coming as it did from the king of cannabis. And with Snoop’s combined 129 million social media followers, his reach was massive.

Social media went wild. Outlets including NPR and the Associated Press picked up the story. Discussion of Snoop’s big decision dominated the internet and the 24/7 news cycle, from the morning shows to the late-night comics.

Four days later, his announcement was revealed to be an ingenious misdirection, a savvy unveiling of his partnership with a smokeless fire pit brand, Solo Stove. In one video, Snoop sat in a homey backyard and toasted marshmallows over their product.

Dickey is the founder of Purple Orange, a data-driven and digital-first PR agency that handles all the media communications and search engine visibility for Solo Stove. Their role in the campaign was to maximize the exposure of Solo Stove across all media and manage the ensuing information blitz.

“We definitely broke the internet,” Dickey said. “There’s no question.”

Dickey stresses that the idea and creation of the ad campaign was the brainchild of creatives at The Martin Agency and the Solo Stove team.

His agency monitored the flood of conversation and leveraged the “insane” amount of news coverage.

They crafted press releases and worked with media outlets such as CNN and NPR that had reported the initial story and felt compelled to correct the record. In PR, that’s gold: Two stories about your client are better than one.

Purple Orange also had prepared contingency communication plans in case word of the feint leaked out prematurely.

“We’re pranking literally the whole western world,” Dickey said. “What if one person wants to get in front of it and leak it to TMZ?”

That never happened, and the campaign worked seamlessly. While there were some back-end critics of the deception, the vast amount of coverage was positive, Dickey said. Snoop is a dynamic personality, and Dickey said people overwhelmingly enjoyed the joke, taking it for the clever sleight of hand that it was.

And Solo Stove’s brand recognition soared.

“Everyone has now heard of Solo Stove,” Dickey said. 

Dickey, a fourth-generation Denisonian, was an environmental studies major. He led a 2007 expedition to summit Alaska’s Mount Denison, 30 years after another team of Denisonians had climbed it. He has built his career largely in the active lifestyle and outdoor space, and Purple Orange represents many brands in that vein, including Jack Wolfskin and Sea to Summit. 

What he learned at Denison laid the groundwork. 

“It’s a lot less important what you study and more how you learn,” he said. “How you formulate critical thinking, and how comfortable you are going out and creating original thought in the world.”

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