Armstrong hopes new DTC offering will allow brands to bypass behemoth platforms
Five months after launching the DTX Company, an outfit focused on direct-to-consumer brands, Tim Armstrong is debuting a new offering. The former AOL and Oath executive unveiled Unbox, an “ecosystem” that promises to help DTC brands acquire new customers.
Unbox uses QR codes on catalogs and TV as well as live events to connect brands with consumers. DTX is trying to distinguish itself from larger players, including Google, Amazon and Facebook, by touting the control it gives to brands in handling customer relationships and data.
“If you’re a direct-to-consumer brand today, much of how you acquire customers involves going on one of the big internet platforms—essentially you’re renting from them access to eyeballs, but you’re not creating a direct relationship,” says Paul Cappuccio, former EVP and general counsel at Time Warner, who recently joined DTX as vice chairman.
In a statement, Armstrong, who is founder and CEO of both DTX and Unbox, called Unbox a “matchmaker” rather than a “middleman.” Incidentally, the latter term has become something of a dirty word when it comes to DTC brands, which often note they have eliminated the "middleman" from their business model in order to serve up the "best prices" to customers.
DTX, which the company writes in an all-lowercase style, already has 10 brands signed on for Unbox—they include toothbrush seller Quip, water-bottle company Swell, and beverage brands Dirty Lemon and Recess. Taking a page from Amazon, which has enjoyed enormous success with Prime Day in July, Unbox is planning a shopping holiday of its own,“National DTC Day,” which will take place two weeks before Black Friday, on Nov. 15. The event will include e-commerce, physical promotions and product launches.
Cappuccio, who is one of several new hires at DTX, notes that the business model for payment is still being finalized with brands. Unbox may be paid per connection or per revenue when it comes to recruiting new customers. While brands are most likely paying for the service through their marketing budgets, Cappuccio doesn’t consider Unbox’s offerings to fall under the designation of “marketing,” he says. “I don’t view it as marketing, I view it as facilitating or matchmaking direct connections.”
On Wednesday, DTX also announced it is teaming up with Quad, a marketing company and catalog printer, and that it has acquired social network AskTipster.