Annie Summerall

Marketing 101: What is a GIF?

September 29th, 2017
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

The way we communicate has changed drastically from the days when we had to run to the phone in the kitchen that was *gasp* attached to a wall to call a friend. When we actually had to call someone to ask them out for a date, instead of swiping right or shooting a text.

We have evolved from phone calls to text messages and countless emojis (even animojis). And now, thanks to the popularization of GIFs — quick, bite-sized animated graphics that play over and over again in a loop with no sound — we barely need to use any words at all to communicate how we are feeling and what we are thinking. Even many corporate communication systems, like Slack, have integrated GIFs.


This transformation is not isolated to our personal use — brands and marketers are incorporating this type of visual content into their content strategy and campaigns. Why? Because they drive engagement and clickthrough, in both email and social media.

But what is it about GIFs that makes such a big impression?

1 . GIFs make ordinary content stand out from the pack

A GIF takes a picture to a whole new level with its eye-catching movement, which makes it stand out in Twitter and Facebook feeds — admit it, you definitely watched the GIF below more than once. This makes GIFs effective tools to get word out about (and draw attention to) new products or content. Read this Search Engine Journal article to see examples of what brands like Marie Clare, NASA and Kraft have done so flawlessly.


2. People are much more likely to remember visual content like a GIF over simple text

We all know that visual content reigns supreme in the marketing world. Wyzowl reports that people remember just 20% of what they read but 80% of what they see (which is probably why I kept thinking about Denny’s for two days after I saw this GIF on its Twitter account.)

 3. GIFs can help humanize your brand

GIFs give you the ability to bring personality to your brand (which can be a secret weapon when it comes to reaching high engagement rates). How do they do this? GIFs help us convey emotion without really having to say anything, and, more importantly, they make your audience feel emotion.

For example, I manage our social accounts (follow us!), and someone recently tweeted us telling us that they love our content. Instead of replying with just a generic “thanks we SO appreciate it,”  I included this GIF to show how flattered we actually were by the compliment. Plus, seeing Jack Nicholson blushing is way more fun than just saying thanks.


Another example: I’m sure you remember in February when Amazon S3 went down — the internet basically broke. We use S3, so our sites were temporarily down. So, we took to social to apologize for the inconvenience. As I scrolled through Twitter, I saw this GIF that represented how everyone was feeling, and I retweeted it with an apology. People identify with emotion, which is why this got retweeted 1,600 times.

And, while these examples are all from Twitter, don’t be afraid to spice up your emails with GIFs — they have the same effect. Read our case study on how Dell increased revenue over 100% with a GIF-centered email campaign.

So, if you aren’t using GIFs in your marketing already, now is a great time to start! You have a few great options:

1) Search libraries of free GIFs on sites like GIPHY (my personal favorite), Reddit, Tumblr, Gifbin and Tenor.

2) Create your own GIFs using Photoshop (here’s a tutorial), Giphy’s GIF Maker, or Make a GIF.

Good luck!

You might also like:

Tips for Incorporating GIFs in Email
Email Marketing: Dell lifts revenue 109% via GIF-centric campaign
8 GIFs of Hanukkah

Annie Summerall

About Annie Summerall

Annie is a copy editor for MarketingSherpa, MarketingExperiments and MECLABS Institute. She graduated from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, with a bachelor’s degree in Corporate Communication. Out of the office, you’ll find her on the beach or trying out new recipes in the kitchen.

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