To the ordinary internet user, the dark web may seem like an ungovernable area of the web where online black marketplaces such as Silk Road reside. To a small team of coffee lovers from Russia, however, it’s the only place they ever considered selling their unique brand of java, dubbed Chernyi Black. Accessible only by web users who’ve downloaded Tor — the tool that lets anyone anonymously surf the web — Chernyi Black won’t be popping up in your local New Seasons anytime soon.
By attempting to eschew the popular connotation that the dark net only consists of illegal or shady practices, the team — named the Chernyi Cooperative — still wants to attract those who frequent these backchannels. In its own words, the Chernyi Cooperative has its sights set on “trendsetters who already have access to plenty of interesting content.” Though Tor mainly helps people make purchases, communicate, and share data anonymously, the team feels confident it can leverage these aspects to keep Chernyi Black in the dark web’s spotlight.
“The target audience of ‘Black’ is familiar with anonymous marketplaces,” said Possible Moscow social media director, Maxim Fedorov to AdWeek. “They know how the purchase process is organized and are aware of the subtleties in attaining what they desire.”
Apparently, in Russia, desiring coffee is seen as slightly taboo. According to Chernyi Cooperative co-owner Artem Temirov, consuming coffee on a daily basis is widely considered dangerous to one’s health, casting a particularly dark cloud over a beverage consumed by millions (if not billions) of people every day.
“We love flipping stereotypes upside down and decided to confront this stereotype, about coffee being a drug,” added Temirov. “With the stereotype about Tor as a platform that exists solely for drug trafficking.”
To help promote the fledgling coffee brand, the team turned to good old-fashioned targeted marketing to spread word of the product. By first posting fliers around some of Moscow’s hippest hangouts, the team then directed advertisements via Facebook to those who’d frequented the city’s Solyanka Club — a nightclub that has since been shut down. With a companion ad video — which features a series of found-footage, first-person-style shots (posted above) — Chernyi Black was released into the wild. The wild of the dark web, that is.
“We had to understand how the dark net worked, so we needed to immerse ourselves in the Moscow underworld,” said Vlad Sitnikov, Possible Moscow creative director. “We also consulted with an ex-cop who specialized in the dark net. [So far] general buzz has been excellent — 10,000 people were reached in the first hour, and product is being bought — and taken from the shop!”
At $12 per pack of coffee, Chernyi Black is available to anyone who has Tor access, as well as the ability to pay via Bitcoin or Qiwi. Once a purchase is completed, the Chernyi Cooperative team then doles out specific coordinates for where the buyer can pick up their spoils. Don’t get the wrong idea, the coordinates simply lead to an area coffee shop — go figure. Perhaps the dark web isn’t as suspicious and murky as its reputation lets on.