Former AOL chief Tim Armstrong has a plan to help retailers bypass big tech platforms like Google and Amazon to reach customers directly

Key Points
  • Former AOL CEO Tim Armstrong has a new venture to create a more direct relationship between brands and consumers.
  • "Unbox" is part of Armstrong's direct-to-consumer-focused company called the dtx company.
  • Unbox will host events later this year for direct-to-consumer product launches and deals in the Midwest and New York.
Tim Armstrong discusses his new direct-to-consumer product service
Tim Armstrong discusses his new direct-to-consumer product service

A new venture from former Google ads chief and AOL CEO Tim Armstrong wants to help brands connect with consumers without giant tech companies keeping all the data to themselves.

Armstrong is behind "Unbox," which will aim to connect brands more directly with their customers using codes and tags across TV, events, catalogs, out-of-home advertising and online. When someone scans the code with their phone, it will bring them to a brand directly.

Many consumers discover direct-to-consumer brands on social media, but companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon don't necessarily share all of their data about how a brand's advertising is working on those platforms with consumers.

Unbox will be part of the dtx company, which Armstrong launched earlier this year to invest in direct-to-consumer product companies.

The idea is to help smaller direct-to-consumer retailers get around tech platforms, and instead let them gather data on their customers directly.

"With today's technology, you don't need to go through one of [the] platforms to have a direct relationship," Armstrong told CNBC's Julia Boorstin at the Allen and Co. Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho on Wednesday.

"Data is really the oil of the economy for these companies, and if those platforms don't allow you to have that data you're basically one step removed from your customer, one step removed from understanding how to run your business properly. Our model is to basically give you those things, our privacy policy is built for that. So we think it will be a different model."

Armstrong said Unbox intends to be help brands gain market share outside of the big platforms, since he said the brands using Unbox will in all likelihood still use social media and Google to reach consumers.

Unbox will host events for direct-to-consumer product launches and deals in the Midwest in September and in New York in November.

At least 10 companies are already signed on to be part of Unbox, Armstrong said. One is men's active wear brand Rhone, whose quarter-zip he was sporting in Sun Valley.

Direct-to-consumer brands have exploded in popularity in recent years, often eschewing middlemen, brick-and-mortar storefronts and other traditional facets of retail. However, some "born-on-the-internet brands" like mattress maker Casper are finding themselves in traditional spots like malls.