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Once, you were young and your heart was an open book. You were gifted with cool and colorful stickers for virtually everything you did, which was virtually nothing: not crying at the doctor’s office, learning the order of the alphabet, behaving. At that age, stickers were plentiful and they were also currency, a certificate of a completed transaction between you and the sticker-haver. You lived in a land of stickers, and you loved them. And then you grew up.

In the land of adulthood, stickers are rarely, if ever, handed out for good behavior. (Except when you’re voting. Please vote.) Stickers ARE given freely when you spend money, though, especially by hip brands that have grown significantly by word-of-mouth; they’re free advertising for Outdoor Voices, Glossier, Ouai, and more. The Goods, a new vertical at Vox that looks at consumer culture, dives in:

The trend’s success is all about recognizing and playing the nostalgia card with millennials, most of whom grew up meticulously decorating their caboodles in the golden age of stickers from Lisa Frank and Happy Bunny.

They’re so popular, that there’s actually a market for people who get the stickers for free in online orders or at events reselling them online:

One of the strongest indicators of a marketing method going very, very well is the booming secondary market for these stickers on resale sites like eBay, Poshmark, and Depop. In fact, stickers are increasingly playing such an important role in the shopping experience that some customers have tweeted out their disappointment about not receiving the sticker sheets when purchasing products in brick-and-mortar stores.

Plus, you can put the stickers on stuff and then Instagram it, and then boom: More easy, breezy, beautiful marketing.

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I believe it’s wrong to attach a monetary value to stickers—but wouldn’t it be radical to rip stickers from their place in the hype machine as cheap and gratuitous marketing and RECLAIM THEM as an effortless means of self-expression? Put a sticker on your phone, and then take it off. (This might take some elbow grease if it’s really, you know, sticky.) Put a star or a cloud near the corner of your eye and see if anyone says anything; they won’t. They’ll all think you’re super cool and intimidating and go home and wonder secretly if they can do it themselves. Decorate your notebook in apple stickers, as a running log of how many good pieces of fruit you had this summer. The sweet thing about stickers is that you can always take them off. And the sweet thing about BRANDS making stickers is they realize no one really cares about sporting their name around—at least, not more than they care about sporting something COOL and SPARKLY around.

Ouai’s head of marketing said, “[W]e’ve learned that our girls like dogs, so we created a dog sticker.” So get real about what you really want—be it barfing unicorns or depictions of Rihanna on a speedboat—because the brands are willing to please.