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Could You Create a Brand That Celebrates Reuse Instead of Consumption?

How the phrase "certified pre-owned" can help brand the idea of used products into vintage chic!

Boy, do I remember my first car.

Like the vast majority of Americans, it was used and it was crap. Reliable it was not; in fact, I can assure you that my first car was made out of metal, plastic, and betrayal.

I was reminded of this car when I come across a few slickly produced commercials for Mercedes? "certified pre-owned sales event" recently. Virtually indistinguishable from new car ads, these soothingly voiced 30-second spots touted the irresistible benefits of certified pre-owned vehicles, presumably for the luxury buyer on a budget.

Certified Pre-Owed. That sounds a little better than "used," doesn't it? Especially considering that a certified pre-owned vehicle (CPO if you want to get all acronym-y) is simply a used car that has passed a safety inspection and carries a warranty.

One reason for certified used-car popularity is that these programs arguably allow consumers to enter a market segment that they normally couldn't afford to enter, which many view is worth the added cost of certification. And the words "pre-owned" really do help! Think about it: Whereas the word "used" immediately has connotations of second-hand, past its prime, worn out, and an almost-eroded quality, "pre-owned" assumes and embraces pride, attention, and care.

So I started thinking, if the word "pre-owned" can work so well for cars, couldn't it work for almost all categories of hard goods?


To take it a level further—and given the fact that we're well ensconced in a recycling-heavy, environmentally conscious, sustainable period in consumer culture—could the word (and the positives attributes) of something like "pre-owned"—or a cooler/hipper word like "recycled" or "vintage"—be applied to more categories to incentivize people to reuse all of their stuff?

Several companies, many of them household names, have already taken the reused/pre-owned idea and run with it, creating efficient and dynamic platforms for the quick buying and selling of used products.

EBay recently launched a new, no-fuss way for people to sell electronics they no longer use. The service, called Instant Sale, offers free shipping and removal of personal data. If a device doesn't sell, eBay recycles it for free.

And IKEA! Well, you'll be happy to know that IKEA has an IKEA-branded second-hand online marketplace where you can buy used furniture. Why? Because in the words of CEO of IKEA Sweden, Peter Agnefäll: "It is about taking an environmental responsibility for how our products are used in the longer term and making it easier for our customers to do their part for their responsibility towards the environment."

Why couldn't IBM or Apple do something like this? A branded pre-owned shop where people can easily drop off their older model laptops or phones for a few bucks and upgrade, while other shoppers specifically looking for older models can shop with manufacturer-backed confidence? There are tens of millions of people the world over who would love your two-year old iPhone!


You could even call the Apple pre-owned store Apple Pi, because the number pi goes on pretty much forever, so the name could be a clever way to speak about the ability of a well-designed and cared-for product being able to last a long time.

What could possibly stop a large publishing company like Random House, HarperCollins or Penguin (whose pre-owned shop could be called "The Igloo") from creating an online or better yet, a brick and mortar location where people could come in and sell or buy pre-owned books?

This pre-owned branded shop concept can be extended to practically every category you can think of?household electronics, kids' clothing, and video games!

And, just as we've all learned to look for and understand what the ubiquitous recycling arrow means, why shouldn't these stores and products have their own equally respected and recognizable symbol? Well, we thought about it and here's our take:


Refurbishing, rebuilding and resusing products put us on the path to true sustainability in the coming years. And with any luck, we won't even need to use gorgeous slow-motion to promote "certified pre-owned sales events" on television any longer.

Oh, and by the way?my first car was a red 1976 Chevy Malibu sedan with a plastic tan interior.

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  • R Cates

    Yes. There is a new-ish verb among trendy women: thrift. As in, "where did you get that skirt?" and the proud answer, "I thrifted it!" The appropriate reply? "Score!" That would be a good brand for the Ann Taylor used clothing shop.


    This is a great post! I think so many folks still think sustainability/green and picture someone chaining themselves to a tree. At the end of the day, people care about the bottom line/their wallet and your piece points that out nicely...entering luxury car space they wouldn't normally get into or being able to trade-in and upgrade.

    I work at Lenovo and we have a great program (more geared towards enterprise clients) in which we recover their old IT assets and securely manage wiping their data and promoting reuse over recycle to allow for whole unit resale. Some of our clients even ask us to refurb the equipment and then stand-up a website where their employees can then purchase the equipment at a discount. We do have consumer based programs as well and there are some other strong programs out there now.

  • Melissa

    Tan interior always fun in the summer pre AC! Apple will buy your old ipod with a 10% discount off your new purchase of an ipod. "Pre-owned" is used but when you define your self by the brands you purchase you'll settle for the closest possible status . After my first car 68' Buick Skylark, I purchased a new Saturn. It always started and AC is super sweet! :)