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Back Market steals Apple’s thunder

Back Market capitalise on Apple’s annual product launch to promote more sustainable technology consumption and refurbishing

Georgie Moreton

Deputy Editor, BITE Creativebrief


On the same day of Apple’s keynote that announced the launch of the iPhone 15 Pro, Back Market revealed itself to be the brand behind ‘Project R’.  An activation which was designed to challenge perceptions of technology and spotlight the damaging nature of continual new tech product launches.

Back Market, the leading marketplace for refurbished technology, piggybacked on the annual Apple event to challenge Big Tech’s constant new device launches (or the ‘cult of new’) and in turn, promote more sustainable technology consumption.

The campaign saw the brand tease the launch of a new product, dubbed the ‘R’ phone, which saw the brand play into all the usual tropes of a new big tech launch such as leaks of documents, dark and moody posters and gifting products to influencers. On the surface the product launch looked exactly like any other but on the day of the Apple keynote, Back Market announced that ‘R’ actually means ‘refurbished’, and the phone has been here all along. Shopping refurbished is far more effective and sustainable.

Playing into the traditional category tropes, Back Market was promoting the “R” phone on September 4 in London, New York City, Paris, and Madrid with billboards in high-traffic areas, and across social channels like TikTok and YouTube. Without revealing its brand, Back Market mysteriously teased a “more sustainable phone” with taglines like: “We think therefore we R; Innovation starts with R; Think greener. Meet R.”

The campaign parodies tech launches to highlight the absurdity of the numerous new products and challenge the perceptions around the need to buy ‘new’ tech every year. At present, big tech companies such as Apple have helped contribute to the 50 million metric tons of E-waste produced each year and while E-waste accounts for 70% of toxic waste, it is also the fastest-growing solid waste stream globally.

Back Market is aiming to combat this issue with its refurbished, circular business model making the ‘R’ phone a far more sustainable option. Back Market aims to show that valuing technology and championing a longer device lifespan can help to drastically lower the emissions impact of tech products.

“Apple products are some of the best products ever made. They’re incredibly high quality, beautifully designed, and long-lasting. But making the world’s best tech has now become a problem - new phones are released every year whether needed or not. Every September, Apple infers that our current devices have reached their expiration date and should be replaced, and that can’t be true,” said Back Market CEO and Co-Founder, Thibaud Hug de Larauze. “At the current rate of consumption and disposal, carbon emissions from digital products will result in approximately 14% of the total emissions by 2040,” he added. 

Championing the circular economy 

Back Market is passionate about spotlighting the impact of the non-stop creation, consumption and replacement of devices which has resulted in a cultural pressure to always have the newest device. The current system of consumption is having an impact on the planet that can no longer be ignored which is why Back Market is encouraging consumers to shop refurbished. With IPA data pointing to the fact that two-thirds of all adults (67%) state that they would be happy to receive a second-hand or refurbished gift this Christmas, audiences are also seeing the benefit of the circular economy and more sustainable shopping habits.

“At Back Market, we wanted to bring the world’s attention to not just the problem, but invite everyone to join us as part of the solution,” added Hug de Larauze. “We want to open peoples’ eyes to the harm that the “cult of new” has on the Earth (both the environmental and the human cost), and the impact it will continue to have if it remains unchecked. We thought it most impactful to do it on the biggest tech stage, at the biggest tech moment possible.”

Where products from Big Tech companies can last for years, choosing a refurbished smartphone can prevent up to 92% fewer CO2 emissions, 89% less e-waste, and 86% and 91% less usage of water and raw materials. With new tech products becoming more expensive each year, refurbished smartphones are an affordable option costing up to 70% less without compromising on quality.

Back Market’s ‘R’ campaign capitalises on the growing need for a behavioural reset to mitigate the harm tech has on the environment. By spotlighting a growing issue within the tech industry whilst offering a robust, cost-effective, high-quality solution, Back Market is able to solidify its position as a forward-thinking alternative, challenging both the industry and shoppers to be more responsible.

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