Nostalgia Marketing and a Midnight Birthday Surprise!

Blog by writer, actor Brijana Prooker - KOTAW Content Marketing
Nostalgia Marketing and a Midnight Birthday Surprise - KOTAW Content Marketing

Ivy looking like a pittie hippie, wearing Bri’s friendship bracelet as a headband.

Just after midnight — so officially my birthday, December 27th — my sister Kelsey exclaimed with glee, “Oh, you have something you can open NOW!”

My mom had gone to our P.O. box that evening to pick up our mail, knowing Kelsey had birthday gifts for me waiting there, and had put all the mail in a bag on her bed, telling me not to peak.

But now I could peak, as Kelsey had just discovered a surprise that didn’t have to wait until my birthday celebration. I ran to her room with excitement and she handed me a card-shaped envelope adorned with stickers that looked straight out of my 90s youth (my absolute most favorite kind!) I immediately knew it was a birthday card from my friend Elizabeth.

When I opened the card, I yelled out with so much joy that I was suddenly nervous I might’ve accidentally woken my mom up. Just like my very vocal pit bull Ivy, who RAH-RAH-ROOOOOOs with abandon and can never contain her pittie excitement, my volume level is directly proportionate to my level of giddiness. And this was maximum volume-level giddy because a handmade FRIENDSHIP BRACELET fell out of the card!

If you aren’t quite grasping how big a deal this was for me, picture the item you most coveted and cherished in your childhood (something that just oozes nostalgia and warm and fuzzy feelings!) then add that feeling of joy to the euphoria you’d feel to get whatever item you most want right now, in your adulthood (something that would make you jump up and down cheering with absolutely no inhibition, even in a room full of strangers!) and then multiply that by at least 10 (because I’m at least 10 times more exuberant than most people, even at their most fervent!)

In other words, I’m pretty sure I looked just as ecstatic as I did last week when my sister and my friend Rose surprised me with an impromptu early birthday dance party, complete with rainbow colored disco lights and Alanis Morissette on the playlist.

For Elizabeth’s birthday, I’d sent her a Kimmy Schmidt card (we bonded over Kimmy Schmidt who, as an adult, is living out the very best parts of my 90s youth — replete with Lisa Frank stickers and Baby-Sitters Club mysteries! — after she read my blog comparing my “Unbreakable” adopted Poodle Doodle LuLU to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (because Poodles, like females, are strong as hell!)

My favorite part of the Kimmy Schmidt card was that that Kimmy was wearing a friendship bracelet. I told this to Elizabeth in what I wrote, detailing just how much I loved friendship bracelets: Friendship bracelets were the most special gift a friend could give you. They weren’t merely a literal display of friendship, but something you made with your own hands — often during a slumber party while watching TGIF! — meaning it came from the heart.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt greeting card

The greeting card that inspired friendship bracelet fever!

This inspired Elizabeth to make a friendship bracelet ( “in KOTAW colors” — how thoughtful is that?!) for the first time since she was 11 or 12. And she made it for me!!

So I’m going to sleep on my birthday wearing Elizabeth’s friendship bracelet, Ivy’s warm velvety head on my knee, and I know I’m going to wake up with a smile.

And I’m thinking it’s going to be a pretty KOTAWesome new year.

Back on the clock

There’s a reason the Will and Grace reboot is such a hit. It’s the same reason Hulu acquired the entire original TGIF lineup and Netflix has found so much success with Fuller House (and Kelsey and I are so watching the new season as part of my birthday festivities!)

There is something comforting and enthralling about being reminded of the magic of your youth. Nostalgia marketing is an actual thing now — this Forbes article says “if you make people feel nostalgic, your brand experience makes them feel good by association.”

So why not add a bit of nostalgia to your brand story? If it makes your audience half as happy as my friendship bracelet makes me, you can consider it a rousing success!

Happy holidays and happy new year, friends! What’s everyone doing to celebrate? Anything nostalgic?! I’d love to hear about your plans — or your favorite childhood memories. :) Tell me a story that will make me smile. It is my birthday, after all!


  1. Elizabeth says:

    Oh Bri!! You make my heart so happy! I’m so glad you were able to get a thrill out of the friendship bracelet. I loved them as a kid too and I remember sitting in my living room on the floor making them while watching my favorite shows. Making this bracelet brought all of those wonderful carefree childhood moments back and it is I who should be thanking you for sending me the Kimmy Schmidt card and allowing me to relive my childhood for a brief moment in time. A little nostalgia goes a long way and it’s so great that we can share our fond kid memories together. I just wish I could have been there with you for your amazing impromptu dance party — it sounds fabulous!! I hope you had an amazing birthday and I hope this year brings the good feeling of friendship bracelets and impromptu dance parties all year long. xoxoxo.

    P.S. I love that you have the bracelet displayed on Ivy’s head in the picture – so adorable.

    • Bri Prooker says:

      Awwww, I’m so glad! Because you make my heart so very happy too. :) Getting your card and friendship bracelet was the absolute BEST start to my birthday, and it warms my heart that you were such a big part of the celebration even though we are miles apart. One day we will definitely make friendship bracelets together!! :) Although I think you’re going to have to re-teach me how to make them!! I’m SO IMPRESSED by you!!!!!

      I do wish you could have been there for my impromptu dance party too!! I take private yoga/Foundation Training with my friend Rose at her house (with her two doggies!) and Kelsey and I have become such wonderful friends with her. She was Kelsey’s yoga teacher first and Kelsey referred me to her and she knows so much about anatomy that she specifies exercises to help improve my circulation and strengthen my veins from my vasculitis. She’s a really amazing teacher and has become an even more amazing friend. After my workout session, she asked me to take her dog Matilda out for a little walk while she and Kelsey made coffee and tea (and I didn’t think there was anything at all suspicious about that — I was just so happy to do it, plus we normally sit around chatting and drinking tea after my sessions anyway!) When I came back inside with Matilda, there were beautiful balloons and the most festive music playing and Kelsey and Rose were dancing! Soon there were rainbow colored disco lights everywhere and it looked like we were at a club! A club with two dogs. :) We danced and danced, laughing and smiling — and I was so deliriously happy. Rose had chosen all the songs especially for me, including some Alanis Morissette that I could belt out whist dancing! And she made the most DELICIOUS vegetarian lasagna with goat cheese for me (because goat cheese is the only kind of dairy I’m not allergic to — and it was sooooo yummy!) And Kelsey had snuck in my FAVORITE chocolate cake that my mom had baked in secret for me. It was such a surprise and so wonderful to celebrate ahead of my actual birthday, so by the time my birthday rolled around, I was already so happy and able to just enjoy without any stressful anticipation. And yesterday I had such a joyful day filled with so much love. Thank you so much for adding to that joy and love in such a monumental way.

      Aww I love your wish for me, that this year brings the good feeling of friendship bracelets and impromptu dance parties all year long! :) Thank you so much, my sweet friend. And I’m glad you like the picture with the friendship bracelet on Ivy’s head! She’s such an angel. And she kissed the friendship bracelet on my wrist. Which means she sends you pittie-pie kisses and lots and lots of love!

  2. Katherine Kotaw says:


    Your ability to express exuberance and soft sentiment in a single sentence never fails to delight my heart.

    Your writing talent is truly a gift, and I am giddy every time I see the CONFIDENCE in your talent grow.

    Every great writer has one thing in common: surprise.

    You never fail to SURPRISE me. I can say that about only a handful of writers. I am beyond pleased that you are on of them.

    Enjoy your gift every day of the year. This doesn’t mean you need to write every day — or every week.

    But spend a moment or two every day basking in the knowledge that you have the GIFT.

    I LOVE YOU!!!


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