GIFs are nothing new, but their use is more popular than ever. Here’s why brands should include them as part of their content marketing strategy.
GIF, which is an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format, was introduced back in 1987 by Steve Wilhite of CompuServe as a new way to present a moving image.
The internet quickly embraced the GIF and the fact that it’s still relevant after 29 years proves its value in web terms.
1. They’re easy to consume
GIFs are easy to consume and this makes them very attractive to any brand trying to meet the audience’s content needs.
According to Twitter, people shared more than 100 million GIFs in 2015 through tweets and direct messages and we are not expecting this number to reduce this year.
— Digital Shift (@ShiftEvents) May 11, 2016
2. Appealing, but also effective
GIFs are not only appealing, but also effective as they help enhance a brand’s message with visual content.
It has been observed that people only remember 20% of the text they read without visuals, which reminds us once again why visual power is more important than ever.
As brands prefer to blend their content efforts with their ROI, GIFs may provide the right encouragement for a user to listen to a brand’s message, serving as the ideal call-to-action.
3. Better than images, but cheaper than video
Brands started loving the idea of using GIFs in their content marketing strategy after finding them more appealing than images, but also cheaper (and easier) to be created, comparing to videos.
Some predict that 84% of communication will be visual by 2018, so any type of visual content that may help a brand find its personality is more than welcome.
4. They speak the internet’s language
GIFs are part of the internet culture, from the early days until today, and despite the changes in content and communication through the years, brands can still be rewarded when keeping up with the times.
Is every GIF equally effective?
Do you know which GIF suits for each case?
5. GIFs are mobile-friendly
As GIFs only last a few seconds, their file size is significantly smaller and the process of uploading them is faster comparing to videos, while the auto loop increases the effectiveness of a brand’s message.
What’s more, their integration on the biggest social networks contributed to their revival and the increased exposure they’ve recently seen.
(Twitter even introduced its own GIF keyboard in collaboration with Giphy, making their use even more convenient.)
— Twitter (@twitter) February 17, 2016
6. Hooking users
Visual content tends to appeal to the audience’s emotions, creating a range of feelings that increase the likelihood of success.
The impulse of sharing a GIF is instant, which is precious at a time where attention is harder than ever.
According to Giphy’s CEO, Alex Chung, a picture may be worth a thousand words, but as “the average GIF contains sixty frames, then they’re capable of conveying 60,000 words – the same as the average novel.”
7. Multi-platform use
GIFs can be used in many social platforms, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr are the most popular ones, which means that a brand may use them to all of them accordingly.
Although people behave differently on every social network, GIFs are still popular in all of them, although it’s not necessary to distribute the same content to all your platforms.
8. Telling a story
Storytelling can be very effective in a brand’s content strategy, as it builds a relationship with the audience in a more authentic way and, once again, visual content and GIFs in particular can be a vital part of the story.
In fact, GIFs may be used as the ideal middle ground between an image and a video and Disney manages to perfect the use of GIFs on Tumblr and it’s no surprise that it’s the most popular brand on Tumblr, also having the most engaged fans.
Buzzfeed also loves using GIFs on Tumblr and other social networks, in order to help users skim a story as fast as possibly, managing to capture their attention and create an outline of their actual content.
9. Promotion becomes more interesting
People are becoming less receptive to traditional advertising and brands try to use their creativity to capture their attention.
GIFs may be used either in social media or email marketing as a different way of informing the audience about a new product, in a more interesting and appealing way, in just a few seconds.
For example, Nintendo announced its collaboration with Vans through Tumblr and this GIF was the perfect way to summarize the announcement.
10. Engage with the audience
GIFs have been used as a new form of communication among users, with an animated image representing the exact feeling they want to express in each case.
Brands joined this trend in order to prove that they understand what their audience likes and Twitter has significantly contributed to it.
— Oreo Cookie (@Oreo) December 30, 2015
Many brands use GIFs to interact with their followers, from Buffer to Oreo and the number of available stocks help them find the right GIF for each occasion, while they may also create their own ones, as Southwest Airlines did, in order to wish for their follower’s birthday.
— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) May 11, 2016
11. Thinking differently with content
GIFs may help a brand think outside the box and that’s what Paramount Pictures did for the promotion of the “Terminator Genisys” movie release.
As they understood how effective GIFs may be, they decided to partner with six GIF artists on Giphy, asking them to reimagine the movie’s characters from their own perspective. This lead to an unexpected exposure with impressive results and numerous shares on Tumblr.
12. Abundance of stock
It’s also interesting to note that even if a brand is not able to create its own GIFs, there is a huge stock out there to find the right ones for every occasion.
Coca Cola may prefer to create its own GIFs, or even encourage users to be creative, but many brands highly appreciate GIF stock libraries, such as Giphy, Imgur, GifBin and many others (and let’s not forget Tumblr).
According to Giphy, there are currently around 150 million original GIFs, while New York Times tried to collect the number of GIFs on the most popular social networks, numbering:
- 23 million GIFs are posted to Tumblr every day
- Five million GIFs are exchanged on Facebook Messenger daily
- More than two million GIF interactions take place on Slack monthly
GIFs in email marketing
GIFs in email marketing are not new, as they manage to capture the users’ attention with the additional layer of movement that offers more possibilities than a still image.
Many brands, including American Apparel and ShoeDazzle showcase their products with GIF images, while Dell saw impressive results from its first GIF-centered email campaign, as it measured:
- 6% increase in open rate
- 42% increase in click rate
- 103% increase in conversion rate
- 109% increase in revenue
GIFs in outdoor advertising
GIFs can even be used in outdoor advertising, with the idea coming from Netflix along with Ogilvy Paris when they decided to create 100 different GIFs for the promotion of the service’s launch in France.
Tips to consider
GIFs don’t magically work in a brand’s content marketing strategy, so it is important to use them appropriately after analysing the audience’s behaviour.
Just when your brands starts embracing the GIF trend, remember:
- Don’t overuse them
- Always try to find the source of them
- Don’t talk through GIFs as a brand
- Use them in context (don’t try too hard to look cool)
And finally, GIF or JIF?
There is a big debate regarding GIF’s pronunciation and whether we should use a soft “G” (as in “gin”) or a hard “G” (as in “graphics”).
Despite the majority’s tendency to pronounce it with the second option, Steve Wilhite, GIF’s creator has clarified that the correct pronunciation is with a soft “G”, with the idea of the name coming from the American peanut butter brand Jif.