The Ultimate Guide to Using GIFs in Marketing

The editor-in-chief of Convince & Convert knew what she was doing when she asked me to write the article “GIF for marketers”. I recently gave up my title of “emoji queen” to accept GIFs-Guru-In-Residence here at C&C. That is true. I’m thinking of GIFs, and I won’t respond to a team email without one. Once you read this I hope you don’t either.

What are GIFs?

GIFs are videos that are easy to share, endlessly looping. They provide emotional weight or context in a world of non-verbal communication. GIFs are universal in today’s digital language. They are available for use on your mobile messaging app, in social media comments, and sometimes in an entire social media posting strategy (Tumblr).

If you are not yet convinced of their importance, consider this: the use of GIFs in social media is a shorty price category.

GIFs have a cousin that you should also know: the sticker.

What is a sticker?

A sticker is technically a GIF format, with (at least 20%) transparency around the edges. Stickers are flat images that can be animated. They’re more prevalent on messaging apps and Instagram stories, are pictured more often, and are meant to add a bit of emotion.

A little history of GIFs

In human years, GIF, which is a shorthand for the graphics interchange format, would be a millennium. The history of the Internet dates GIF back to 1987 and CompuServ. For a few decades, GIFs were those cute little animated icons seen on the World Wide Web. This is certainly not a threat to the prominent cultural position that GIF currently enjoys. But when Web 2.0 (in the early 2000s) gave birth to YouTube and the rise of video creators, followed by the rapid adoption of social media and smartphones, GIF became a phenomenon.


Reaction gif

Tumblr gave rise to the emergence of Reaction GIFs, inspiring creators to identify the perfect video footage for every possible reaction. The creators and editors of BuzzFeed have used GIFs from day one, both on the site and in related social media posts. The popularity of BuzzFeed has helped propel GIFs into the mainstream for internet users and social media culture. Today, GIPHY, Tenor, and Gfycat host and index billions of user-generated GIFs that power GIF search and discovery on mobile phones and social media.

The GIF pronunciation debate

The current debate on the pronunciation of GIFs is divided between the hard team “g” or the soft team “g”. Brilliantly, GIPHY has teamed up with JIF peanut butter to settle this, in GIF, once and for all.


Can I use GIFs for marketing?

Short answer: of course you can!

Longer answer: Yes! GIFs are marketing ready.

GIFs are extremely versatile in both content and the way they are deployed. Using GIFs is another way to incorporate more video into your overall post-type mix. Beyond social media, GIFs are used in blogs, E-mail, direct messages, and even website backgrounds.

And the audience interacts with GIFs. Omnicore has found that tweets with GIFs get 55% more engagement than those without, but only 2% of all tweets contain GIFs.

GIFs work because they’re simple – no audio, just video (some with words on the graphic). They are creative, without thinking too much. You don’t need video clips to work. A whole genre of artistic animated illustration GIFs by talented creators have taken prominent positions and rival video clips for the most viewed GIFs.

Marketers have a variety of options for incorporating GIFs into their content stack:

  • Educate and inform
  • Show product
  • Quick responses to mentions and comments on social media
  • Demonstrate simple steps
  • Give users something to share spontaneously
  • Add movement and interest, especially in traditionally static channels like emails

Why use GIFs in marketing

Culturally, Americans most often use GIFs to express two commonly expressed feelings; either to say “I love you” or “Happy Birthday”.


Recently we have a lot more to say. The cultural awakening and events of the past year have elevated the advocacy brand ‘IntoAction’ and their GIFs pictured here and now to the rank of the most viewed partner brand on GIPHY with 21.4 billion (or billions) views. in 2020.

Audiences love them because they are short – most GIFs are less than 4 seconds – and add context and emotion. GIFs humanize social accounts by being relatable.

I admit that I think about GIFs, whether it’s from my favorite TV show or a sports package. Nine times out of ten, when I search for a GIF with an emotional or savvy response, I can find a GIF that exactly matches my tone and mood. There is a GIF for anything and everything.

GIFs work for marketing because they:

  • Helps spontaneity and response in real time
  • Inject personality into the tone and identity of the brand
  • Support storytelling, but with fewer words
  • Are a safe way to test brave content it’s super relevant and inspiring.

If we understand where and how marketers can use GIFs, why aren’t more marketers using GIFs in content?

Don’t let a lack of branded content or copyright issues deter you from starting to use GIFs. If your legal department has ever cautioned against using GIFS from copyrighted material, fear not. Designing a set of branded GIFs and stickers is a relatively straightforward creative project.

How to create GIFs for your brand

Convince & Convert Consulting recently worked with the University of Arizona on the launch of the COVID Watch app, as college students returned to campus in the fall of 2020. Based on research for messages and d audience, we knew the students would embrace the updated iconography. to reflect current events (diversity and masks were essential). In our creative brainstorming, we identified a variety of custom icons, stickers, and GIFs for the COVID Watch Arizona campaign.


Step 1: Create a creative brief.

We wanted the icon resources to be available for the University of Arizona social team to create their social posts, so we recruited a series of artists to help us bring these icons to life. Our creative brief included the creative identity, campaign message, existing iconography and imagery, along with links to GIFs and sticker styles we wanted to emulate. Our team shared the brief with selected artists at Fiverr, Light boardand Ghost Ranch. Using three different creative resources, we tripled the options and design styles the university would use throughout the campaign.

Step 2: Start with an icon set for the brand.

A set of custom vector icons is the starting point for your GIFs and stickers. Approving the illustrations before they became animated saved us (and the artists) time. Give the icons to your social team to create additional social graphics related to GIFs and stickers. Icon sets can be shared with influencers who co-create content with your brand.

Step 3: Animate to make an impact.

After approving the vector icons, the artists set to work to animate them to the styles and formats we needed. In our brief, we asked:

Illustrated stickers that emphasize campaign messages in handwriting and cartoon / illustration styles. Animation and movement that enhanced the design was a must.

Animated gifs of illustrations promoting campaign messages and relating to iconic brand design elements.

Step 4: Create a Creators account on GIPHY.

Once we had the final files from our designers, we uploaded the files in .gif format to the brand’s account on GIPHY and added a set of branded hashtags for discoverability. As we had the account verified during the creation phase, the new assets were available almost immediately on Instagram when we researched the University of Arizona.

To create and optimize a GIPHY account, proceed as follows:

  1. Create a basic GIPHY account.
  2. Upload 5 GIFs (these don’t need to be original) and request a creator account
  3. Organize the account page using playlists and categories. Get inspired by branded accounts like Lego gifs for best practices.
  4. Use SEO best practices for gif markup with keywords for easy identification and discovery.

Outsourcing the design of the GIFs and stickers allowed us to have more looks and ways to support the campaign. When looking for an artist or ideas to help your campaign, don’t miss out on the GIPHY Artist Network. GIPHY recognizes its better and the brightest creators each year, most of whom support custom client work for as little as $ 100 to $ 300 per project.

As social platforms and audience preferences continue to prioritize video-like formats and emotional resonance, marketers need to actively use GIFs as part of the content mix. If your industry’s GIFs or keywords stink, then make it a priority to create GIFs and stickers that shine.

Or, you can do what I do and adopt Moira Rose as the default character. With 981 GIFs marked “MoiraPer CBC, I’m sure there will always be a suitable Moira for the entire team’s emails.


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