3 Reasons GIFs Have a Place in Your Marketing

Okay, before we start, is it tomato or tomahto? Potato or potahto. Is it GIF or JIF? The creator of the format called Graphics Interchange Format, Steve Wilhite, says “jif” like the peanut butter. I’ve always said GIF with a hard “g.” The battle over how it’s pronounced is documented very well in a NY Times article “Battle Over ‘GIF’ Pronunciation Erupts” … but I’ll still say GIF.

The GIF format created in 1987 was popular due to its wide support across browsers and email clients. And in the early days, the animated GIF was one of the primary ways to add movement to a Web page.

We’ve all seen them. Flashing letters. Hokey cartoons. The dancing baby. Today, these are distractions and lack a certain classiness. Kind of like using WordArt.

7 Up SpotDrudge SirenDancing Baby gifEmail me mailbox openUnder construction gifMy advice: Don’t do this today. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t use an animated GIF, it just means you need to use them in a more sophisticated way and with an appropriate animation. An animation that will enhance your message, not distract from it. Here are three reasons to consider the use of an animated GIF in your marketing messages:

1. Instructions/Training

Macaw demonstration gifIn this example, software company Macaw uses this GIF to demonstrateone of the features in its software. This is an excellent way to show a feature without forcing someone to watch a video or have to scroll through three to four static pictures. It quickly shows functionality.

You can use this type of animated GIF in an e-newsletter, too. Imagine showing a feature for a new version of software as Sprout Social has done below. It’s a case where the animation enhances the message.

Sprout Social gif2. Subtle Sense of Reality

Headscape homepage gifHeadscape, a digital media company in the UK, has a very subtle animation on its home page featuring an office scene (I highly suggest checking the site out via the link, since the image above is static and not animated … we weren’t able to capture the GIF). Notice the subtle movements of the pen and the person sipping coffee. I find these wonderful surprises.

Taking this one step further, you can create a cinemagraph, an animated GIF usually made from high-end photographs. The next two examples show how you can enhance a photo with either dramatic movement in the case of the Tokyo GIF or the more subtle Taxi Reflection. In both cases the animation enhances the viewing experience in an elegant way.

Tokyo cinemagraph

Taxi cab window cinemagraph


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