Venture capital-backed meal replacement drink manufacturer Soylent officially launched a dark web store called Soy Route as a part of its collaborative marketing project with advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy.
Similar to alternative dark web marketplaces and stores, Soy Route is a .onion website which can only be accessed through the anonymous browser Tor. On the Soy Route dark web store, consumers of Soylent are guided by the company’s artificial intelligence (AI) representative Trish that was specifically developed to interact with Soylent customers in real-time.
With the help of Trish, Soylent consumers can purchase the firm’s limited-edition products and experimental flavors of Soylent drinks with bitcoin. According to Soylent CEO Rob Rhinehart, most of the limited-edition products or flavors that are currently being sold on the Soy Route dark web store are not be availed elsewhere.
The development of its unique AI customer representative Trish and the launch of the dark web store Soy Route are two important elements of the new marketing initiative being implemented by Wieden+Kennedy. In the upcoming months, Soylent hopes to secure a large following and consumer base of tech-savvy customers.
Important Brand Recovery Process
In 2015, the Soylent team secured a $20 million investment from Silicon Valley’s most prominent venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Various reports and sources revealed that Soylent as a startup was valued at around $150 million. The multi-million dollar funding round participated by other leading Silicon Valley investment firms including Lerer Ventures and Index Ventures included the appointment of Andreessen Horowitz partner Chris Dixon as the board member of Soylent, who joined the Soylent team to help with the branding and product development.
A few months later, as global product sales surged by more than 300 percent, Soylent executives revealed their mid-term strategy of expanding its operations to Europe. In early 2016, Rinehart stated:
“We’re up 300 percent this year and trying out and experimenting with new products. We should be in Europe by next year, so … very good.”
However, Soylent began to receive negative media coverage and product reviews in mid-2016 as various customers reportedly experienced “violent vomiting” following the consumption of Soylent products such as the Soylent Food bar. The chewable Soylent Food bar was the company’s first solid food product which was introduced amidst the company’s expansion to Europe.
Consumer complaints on social media platforms and online communities including Reddit led to dismissive coverage of Soylent’s new line of products, which were introduced with a vision of global expansion and distribution.
Inc magazine along with other news networks reported various cases of consumers who felt nauseated and experienced intense vomiting and diarrhea after consuming the Soylent Food bar.
“Last Friday, I ate one for breakfast and about an hour later began to feel nauseous. I had to run to the bathroom to vomit and then vomited once more and had awful diarrhea. I also assumed that it was a virus. This morning, I had about 1/3 of a bar and had an even more violent reaction. I vomited a total of seven times and had several runs of the runs,” reported Inc.
Soylent and Wieden+Kennedy’s joint effort to launch a dark web store solely for tech-savvy and bitcoin users can be perceived as an attempt to recover the brand from negative press and secure a large market share over the tech-savvy consumer base in order to maintain an active user base for mid and long-term growth.
The Silicon Valley startup is taking a completely different approach and strategy in contrast to most developing highly valued companies in the industry.