Updated: Jul 7
A Modern Phenomenon,
Breadcrumbing, defined by Urban Dictionary as “the act of sending out flirtatious, but non-committal text messages (ie "breadcrumbs") in order to lure a sexual partner without expending much effort,” equates to good old fashion 'leading someone on'.
Breadcrumbers will send you sporadic messages, slide into your DMs here and there, or throw you a like on Instagram just frequently enough so you don’t lose interest, but not too much so the relationship actually moves forward. It’s a twisted, methodical practice that takes serious effort to perfect.
Breadcrumbers have a sense for when you’re close to moving on, so they seize the opportunity to leave you a trail of breadcrumbs — or brief flirtations — so you don’t forget about them quite yet……yet.
Humans breadcrumb all over the world… but so do brands. Being the marketing geek 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 Jimmy Choo pops back into my inbox every couple of months. Now that I work from home more often and don’t splash out on fancy shoes often, I find myself sadly pushed to being breadcrumbed quite often. They know I'm not committing right now but also don't want me to forget them.
Flings vs. The long term Relationship
Now there are a few brands that keep it consistent — they pop into my inbox weekly, they remember my birthday, and they attempt to provide VALUE… not just trying to get into my wallet.
We can all tell when a person or brand is just trying to get something out of us without making any commitments. They show up every once in a while just to make sure you don’t forget them, they say something sweet or offer a 20% off voucher, but they’re just there to make sure you don’t forget about them and move on to someone else.
Which brings me on to the golden chalice of all this aka ‘Relationships’— Think about that person who was made you sit up and realise they were a genuinely sweet and a loyal soul. He or she has always consistently been there, supportive, loyal, and interested in your well being. They check in with you, they remember every birthday, ask ‘how are you?’ and they’re there when you need them.
You had great times together, memory making times. BUT the spark just wasn’t there. So you split and go your separate ways. 10 years later you’ve changed and this person all of a sudden is perfect for you! Marriage material infact….you know they are the ‘forever’
Compare that to the charming individual who just lands into your Instagram DMs at 1am with “Hi”
Are they going to be there delivering you soup when you’re sick?
I don’t think so.
You easily forget about the breadcrumber, not so with the consistent person/brand they stick in your mind as a very pleasant memory.
Transfer this comparable to marketing and brands. You are looking at the Instagram account speaking out to its readers about its online presence, connecting and engaging with its audience. Showing their loyal followers how much they appreciate them. We all love these companies and stay loyal because we feel ‘understood’
Now let’s talk about… Email Marketing, the main form of direct communication between brands and humans. Do you have those newsletters that are delivered into your inbox weekly? Maybe you don’t always read them, but you know they’re there. The brand name flashes into your mind as you scroll through your inbox each morning. They’re consistent, they’re there for you, when you are ready to read them. You know the words will fill you with optimism as they promise to brighten your world.
So let's get back to The Breadcrumber. There’s the super hot person who texts you suggestive yet slightly charming texts. They usually come in late at night, at sporadic times, and they never lead to anything. If they don’t hook you right away, they’ll probably move on to the next person on their DM list of ‘potential conquests’.
They’re not there when you need someone to talk to, and you know they’re not dependable. They certainly won’t be bringing soup when you’re sick.
Brands have their breadcrumbing equivalent. You don’t hear from them for months, and then suddenly they’re emailing you trying to sell you on their newest course or product. They don’t check in often, they don’t provide value, they don’t bring you soup… they just try to get in your wallet.
Now between these two situations, who do we pick? Unfortunately, many of us fall for sweet words and future proofing… but only for a while! We fall for it once, maybe twice but when the penny drops that the consistency is missing and actually there is no substance to the communications, and so it becomes just white noise. Not something we want in marketing as the digital clatter of other accounts all fighting for attention in the feeds of a thousand admirers. We need the loyalty, these people search for you and refer you by ‘word of mouth’
When you become digital clutter, you loose followers, likes, engagement and ultimately your energy to produce content for a ghost account.
Why It All Matters…
Customer Lifetime Value.
Relationship Lifetime Value.
It’s all based on the same fundamental rules: The net profit attributed to the entire future relationship with those you interact with.
Now that you’ve put yourself on the receiving end of breadcrumbing and analysed the way you feel about it, let’s put your marketing hat on and talk about consistency.
Consistency increases trust and loyalty, finally leading to a higher customer lifetime value. You marry the person who’s always there and brings you soup when you’re sick, while you just have a fling or two at most with the breadcrumber.
So who are you in your marketing efforts? Are you consistent, or do you breadcrumb your audience?
Now if you’re in it for the long haul… here’s how you can increase your Customer Lifetime Value and convince your audience that you’re THE ONE.
Personalise your communications
Find yourself and your voice and keep it consistent. Dont be afraid to showcase who you really are, people love people.
Pop in their inbox! DM ask how they are. Have a conversation.
Ask yourself if you’re too “vanilla” Now I know you are probably a riot in person, BUT how are you selling this energy online? Some of the most interesting people I know in person, are dull as hell online. Im one of them, I spend all day online and dislike texting. I have to be so careful of this in work communications. Just be aware of it.
Don’t be cheesy but at the same time sell the sizzle not the sausage.
Keep them wondering and make them curious - This one is key in any online engagement. You need to entice, seduce and woo (love that word)
Draw them in with Inbound Marketing