It’s hard to believe 28-year-old internet technology now thrives as the lingua franca of the modern, mobile web.
But such is the animated GIF, which you might recall from it’s earlier days as a never-ending troupe of dancing babies, hamsters and bananas.
Oh yes, the dark days of the Internet, BC (that is, before cats).
As the internet matured, how we consumed media evolved alongside it.
Except for the GIF. The unstoppable cockroach of a file format now reigns supreme as a powerful tool of the modern-day marketer.
The same factors powering the GIF make it ideal for content marketing:
1. They work
Simple yet dynamic. Decidedly old school but still cool. Fun and still effective. The GIF owns a proven record of attracting eyeballs and increasing engagement.
But the power isn’t limited to winning a Reddit argument. According to a study by the Email Institute, emails embedded with GIFs delivered increased click-through rates of up to 26%. BlueFly discovered emails with GIFs captured 12% more revenue than those without. In a similar study with Dell’s email newsletter, Marketing Sherpa discovered GIFs increased click rate 42%, conversion rate 103% and total revenue 109%.
Outside of email, content creators use GIFs to capture their audience’s fleeting attention spans and driving engagement from in-depth posts.
“When there’s a GIF somewhere on your screen, it’s hard not to look at it. And because GIFs have a certain lo-fi and hand-made feeling, they’re less off-putting than more slick corporate messaging,” Deacon Webster, chief creative officer and founder of Walrus, told Contently.
2. Visual is everything
You can’t argue with science, and the science behind the GIF is clear: we process visual information much quicker and remember it more easily.
“So many studies have shown that captivating imagery leads to better engagement. If you can interact with those images, even better. Branded GIFs are the perfect combination of content marketing and interactive communication,” Michael Peggs, CEO of Marccx Media, said.
Michael Brenner, head of strategy at NewsCred, believes the future of content marketing will be increasingly visual, fun, funny and entertaining. A future made for the GIF.
3. Social media snacks
Rescued from the dark corners of backwater bulletin boards, the GIF was repopularized by the cool cliques on Tumblr and elevated as the ideal format for meme-crazed social media.
The GIF has recently established a reputation as a versatile, engaging method to connect across the social sphere. With all the major social networks now optimizing for the looping animations, brands employ the magnetism of GIFs to attract and connect with their audiences, unleashing short snippets of animation as a big part of their content marketing strategy.
— OREO Cookie (@Oreo) July 22, 2015
Built to be shared, short GIFs are a reliable method for driving social engagement, sharing your brand’s personality and growing the audience for your other content-marketing efforts.
4. Shorthand storytelling
The most powerful GIFs capitalize on the format’s inherent strengths while embracing it’s limitations to create compelling, succinct stories crafted to feed the content cravings of today’s audiences.
The best GIFs eliminate variables and focus on conveying one clear message, delivering a powerful punch from a small, short package. Not only do these animations load quicker (on any device anywhere), but their sharpened focus conveys the intended message loud-and-clear, over-and-over, earning out-sized impact and social shares.
Simple yet dynamic, GIFs instantly connect the largest possible audience to a story—no links, no buffering, and no additional effort required. Because the format requires so little viewer investment, yet captures so much attention (either on page, or within a social stream), GIFs are perfectly suited for promoting and reflecting the stories you are telling throughout your content marketing.
— General Electric (@generalelectric) September 14, 2015
5. Deep connection on demand
The secret behind the GIFs revival: nothing online connects strangers on a human, emotional level quite as quickly and easily as the short, looping animations.
By referencing pop-culture, expressing humor and serving as a shorthand for complex to express emotions, GIFs unlocked an unmatched ability to connect us online. An ability many brands are discovering, when applied authentically, resonates with their audience.
Joe Puglisi, Buzzfeed’s senior creative strategist, puts it this way:
“If a picture is worth a thousand words, a GIF is worth 10,000. GIFs are a mini-vehicle for storytelling, capturing emotions, and communicating them in a concise way that words and pictures alone cannot.”
Additionally GIFs allow you to contribute to current trends, lean on existing cultural conventions and conversations, and refresh shared memories with your audience in a genuine, fun way.
Plus memes, who could forget memes.
- Tell a story—Share a short animation of a product being made.
- Convert—Run a test in an upcoming email newsletter using a GIF to attract attention to a specific CTA.
- Engage—Share existing efforts socially with animations capturing the emotions expressed in the pieces.