“Gifs are easy to digest, quick to see and allow me to continue with the content.”
My co-worker and web designer Erika Balser summed it up best when discussing the appeal of gifs—the compressed image files that play incessantly and look like short video clips. Pronounce gifs as Jif peanut butter or the present you receive. That doesn’t matter as much as how you, the brand or marketer, use them.
What has been the bread and butter of the Tumblr blogosphere has also become accepted by the other major social media outlets. Since the spring, Facebook finally embraced gifs, Twitter kicked off autoplay videos, Vines and gifs, and Pinterest launched motion-controlled, gif-like Cinematic Pins in addition to having already adopted gifs.
Last week, Wendy’s became one of the first brands to test out Facebook gifs by virtually building its Strawberry Fields Chicken Salad. The gif looks good enough to eat. It garnered more than 14,300 likes, 320 shares and 260 comments in just under four days, which seems to be much more interaction than recent static images and videos.
So how can these animated images boost your next campaign? I asked my Pace colleagues to explain why they like gifs to uncover what makes these short looping videos essential to a brand’s marketing mix.
Gifs Allow Brands to Show Off Their Sense of Humor and Personality
“Gifs and memes from funny TV shows or movies are like an inside joke the whole Internet is in on.”
— Submitted by assistant editor Joanna Rutter
Thanks to the abundance of reaction gifs—those that portray a person’s shock, amazement or despair—from popular TV shows and movies, brands can piggyback off pop culture and post responses in real-time to converse with their audiences. If the gifs are good, they elicit an immediate reaction from viewers and help the brand better connect with their followers.
Also, autoplay gifs can’t be stopped or started. So if brands can create the perfect loop, then they’ve struck gold and made the gif a must-see despite the noise on their feeds. The loops seem to have no end, so they quickly catch the eye and mesmerize the viewer.
Gifs Tell a Story Succinctly
“My attention span is low, but I still want to be entertained. Gifs are the perfect compromise. It’s the ratio of investment vs. payoff. It’s the most entertainment for the shortest amount of time.”
— Submitted by associate editor Lenise Willis
Single gifs transmit messages quickly, usually within two to four seconds. Ninety percent of information your brain absorbs is visual, and visual messages are processed 60,000 times faster than text. In addition to using gifs as one-off posts, brands can also stitch them together to create a story and keep viewers’ attention on a subject for a longer period of time.
The Wilson sporting goods company released a series of gifs on its Wilson’s More Win. Tumblr page about crafting 216 versions of the official game ball called “The Duke” for Super Bowl XLVII in the world’s only dedicated football factory. The gifs chronicled it all—from pressing the official Super Bowl logo onto the leather hides to inflating the balls.
The most popular gif showed the evolution of the “Duke.” The caption reads: “Since Super Bowl I in 1967 to present day, Wilson has been behind every winning moment in every Super Bowl.”
Wilson capitalized on the media frenzy surrounding the championship game to remind the world of its unique, world-class products. The series earned Wilson a Shorty Award for Best Use of Animated Gifs. The gifs increased fan interaction for the brand across the web, boosting Wilson’s Facebook fans by 11 percent and reaching 684,000 people on Twitter through mentions, according to the Shorty Awards. Overall, more than 25 million digital impressions were generated from Wilson’s More Win. Tumblr page.
“If you’re learning something, you can see it over and over again without having to cue it up. For instructional purposes, it’s very useful.”
— Submitted by senior associate art director Camilo Perdomo
Brands can provide tutorials, show a process or demystify a subject that’s hard to grasp through gifs. This gif infographic runs in a continuous loop to show the breadth of a cheetah’s running stride. It’s mesmerizing and informative. In similar fashion, companies can repurpose stats and charts to create meaningful tidbits of knowledge about certain subject matters that might impress their audiences.
General Electric constantly finds ways to simplify even the most imposing scientific concepts and makes its giant machines look appealing to the mass audience.
This gif posted on General Electric’s Tumblr page shows a worker sandblasting a gas turbine component.
With a simple animated image, GE breaks down the towering turbines into one of its smallest pieces and gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to create the sky-high machine.
Gifs Can Help Brands Promote a Product or Event
“I think gifs have a way of sucking you in; especially now in the days of Vines, animated gifs reach audiences even more! We’re sort of primed now for that type of imagery due to Vine and Instagram videos. We get caught in those loops, so to speak.”
— Submitted by associate editor Lenise Willis
Taco Bell has mastered the short, infinite loop to promote its products and events. Their gifs, for the Daredevil Loaded Grillers and the Cap’n Crunch Delights pastries, are as catchy as a jingle. The gif for the desserts includes a fun, yet strong call to action—buy your Delights, which debuted last July.
Samsung also used an educational gif to hype the Ultra Power Saving Mode on its line of Galaxy smartphones.
Gifs Repurpose Branded Content in Easy-To-Digest Bites
“I hate having to wait for a video to load, especially if there are ads. I’ll take GIFs and some text all day.”
— Submitted by associate editor Zack Hill
Good content should constantly be shared to reach new audiences. Brands often repurpose their video content to create a gif that highlights certain moments. “America’s Got Talent” has a knack for creating clever reaction gifs from its shows. The gifs and captions always hit the right note.
_ _ _
As with any medium, companies should consider if gifs are the best means to spread their message. What do you think? Are gifs the gifts that keep on giving? How should brands decide when and how to use them for marketing?