Chernyi (Black) Cooperative is a small coffee shop in the centre of Moscow that, in addition to standard coffee shop fare, offers monthly subscriptions for its own roasted coffee beans. Chernyi came to us in 2016 with a request to double the amount of coffee subscriptions.
We knew we needed to reach as many people as possible beyond the established core audience of coffee fanatics. So we turned to a channel normally ignored by brands but with a large, relatively engaged audience – Tor – the anonymous network. This segment of the internet has been growing actively since 2010. Per Tor Metrics, Russia is the network's second most active country, with 208,000 unique daily users. An anonymous social survey has shown that one in three Russians are familiar with Tor.
We broke through the stereotype that coffee is a drug with a simple trick: launch the first online coffee store on the dark web. A legal product. Sold through an illegal network.
To grow coffee subscriptions, we had to increase our audience from niche coffee fans to a broader public.
We targeted Muscovites who understand the value of coffee straight from the plantation, locally roasted, and are willing to pay for it.
The platform was a website at cherniyx23pmfane.onion in the anonymous.onion domain zone which allows users to buy coffee using Bitcoins – and Qiwi payment system – both standard on anonymous marketplaces but unique for coffee subscriptions.
Our campaign centered on the complete imitation of "black market" products. We managed everything from the vocabulary ("Straight off the Columbian plantations", "I've been a user since I was 16") to time of posting (exactly 4:20 PM) and using video content and music created by active dark web users. We published a post on a popular news site about the first online store for a legal product on Tor network, simultaneously launching banners on dark web forums and leading users to the website.