Millennials call it “breadcrumbing” but this phenomenon, or tactic, is anything but new. Even if you’ve never heard of the term, you’ve probably experienced it. To be honest, It wasn’t part of my vocabulary until last week. I was discussing my most recent “almost relationship” over a glass of vino with one of my best friends. I explained how this super charming man had swept me off my feet, just to slowly disappear – but not entirely. He would still text something sweet every now and then, luring me back in every time I started to move on. “Oh, he breadcrumbed you.” She said, very nonchalantly and matter of factly – as if it was as ordinary as sliced bread. “That’s a thing!?”
Breadcrumbing Defined“Yeah. They give you just enough to keep you there.”
Or as Urban Dictionary puts it, “the act of sending our flirtatious, but non-committal text messages (ie “breadcrumbs”) in order to lure a sexual partner without expending much effort.”Or as my Mom would call it, “leading someone on.” I realized that, given there’s a term for this behavior, it’s much more common than I would have thought. And apparently, this behavior is not unique to any particular culture. As my American friend later told her Father, “They breadcrumb over in Europe too”. From my experience, they “breadcrumb” in Costa Rica United States UK Turkey Holland Bali Mexico Canada Switzerland Germany Spain Australia Italy (oh, especially Italy, I wouldn’t be surprised if breadcrumbing originated here) Humans breadcrumb all over the world… but so do brands. Being the Marketing Nerd that I am, I began to think about this in marketing terms – because to be honest, I’m much more interested in marketing than in dating. Not to say I’m not interested in dating, but I just really love marketing and the psychology behind it. So here’s the thing: the marketers behind brands and businesses breadcrumb us too. Like when Sephora pops back into my inbox every couple of months (Sephora and I used to be in a pretty serious relationship, but ever since I left the US, I don’t hear from them often). Now that I travel full time without a physical address or any way to order things online, I find myself breadcrumbed.