I could watch Patrick Stewart facepalm all day. Through the wonder of GIFs, I’ve actually done just that, going into giggle-fits on every rotation.
Looped hilarity aside, GIFs are quickly spreading beyond Reddit and Tumblr and into mainstream marketing, and for good reason. They’re highly effective at achieving the KPIs every marketer wants: Better open rates, more views, and higher conversions. Also, people love ’em.
Email marketers can especially benefit from adding GIFs to their campaigns. In this post, we’ll cover exactly what you need to know about using GIFs to make your email marketing more convincing — and more fun — than ever before.
What is a GIF?
A GIF, or graphics interchange format, is a way to format static or animated image files into a short clip of moving images. They are typically five seconds long or so and often humorous as well as captioned.
GIFS aren’t exactly illegal. They fall into a gray area where the squidgy bit concerns using original content created by someone else to make and share them. Copyright owners have the right to control derivatives of their work, where and how it’s shared, and the right to proceeds generated from their images.
However, according to Peter Van Valkenburgh, as quoted in Forbes: “As of October 2013, there is no U.S. case that definitively states whether creating a GIF made from copyrighted material is or isn’t copyright infringement.”
Whether a GIF is legal depends on whether its usage falls under “fair use,” which is partly determined by what you’re using the GIF for. Typically, something falls under fair use “when the original material is used for a limited and ‘transformative’ purpose, such as commentary, criticism or parody.”
In other words, GIFS may be protected under free speech. Copyrighted material, essentially, can be remixed and repurposed legally if the new use is derivative, and doesn’t compete with or devalue the copyrighted work.
But – and this is a big but – GIFs featuring celebrities and sports games are problematic. To be completely safe using this type of GIF, you must get written releases from all copyright holders, any actors appearing in in the GIFs, and the GIF creator. You also need to link to the original source of the content (to make it clear you didn’t make it).
That’s too many hoops to jump through for your average content marketing department, but don’t worry. There are a lot of GIFs out there that don’t feature Patrick Stewart.
What makes GIFs so darn good?
To say GIFs are wildly popular is to understate the phenomenon.
Fun fact: Almost 23 million GIFs are posted to Tumblr each day.
According to Mike Isaac at The New York Times, “[GIFs] have become a mainstream form of digital expression, a way to relay complex feelings and thoughts in ways beyond words and even photographs, making them hugely popular with young audiences who never leave home without their smartphones.”
Mike Isaac nails it – there’s an emotional component to a great GIF that mainlines sentiment straight through to the cerebral cortex. If you want someone to feel excited about your email offer, something like this could be your fast track:
Use GIFs to drive engagement and connections
Email marketers are always on the lookout for ways to set their emails apart from the rest of the inbox. It’s a three-fold challenge: You need to get noticed, get clicks, and get conversions. That’s no small task. Luckily, animated GIFs might just be the bit o’ magic you’re looking for.
Social media marketers have been using GIFs to boost social engagement for years, but it isn’t a leap to see how GIFs could also liven up email marketing. Even if your email marketing needs to feature your products instead of someone else’s dog.
Make your own GIFs
DiGiorno isn’t alone. Women’s clothing retailer Ann Taylor LOFT used an animated present GIF to entice subscribers to click through to “unwrap” their gift, and adding just a little motion surprised readers into doing just that. (For some truly outstanding examples of email GIFing, check these out.)
Get personal with GIFs
More and more, email marketers seek to make personal connections with users to drive up engagement and customer loyalty. And that means emails have to be more than “Sale!” or “Check out our new feature!” They need to act like real communications between human beings (crazy, I know). That’s why email marketing best practices recommend sending emails from personal addresses rather than a do-not-reply mass email address.
Consider how much more personal and compelling it would be to open an email and see the founder featured in a GIF. Or the marketing team excitedly opening the boxes of brand new products. You don’t have to make a huge production out of it. When in doubt, ask yourself: What would Fido do?
Google’s Photos app for Android and iPhone make it possible to get material for your own GIFs any time, anywhere, by letting you create GIFs from your smartphone albums. Giffer, also on the iPhone, lets you create GIFs from videos you’ve taken with your phone, as well as trim and add text. Remember those “Kodak moment” commercials? Now, they’re GIF moments, and they’re happening all around you.
Take GIFs beyond the inbox
Got a new product or feature? GIF it.
Manning the help Desk? Would you rather spend 20 minutes writing an email response to a question, or 20 seconds recording a video that shows customers how to accomplish a simple but important task?
GIFs can help you hack your workflow – and people love them. You know what they say: ‘Tis a GIF to be simple.
Get started with the GIF DIY Toolkit
There are far more GIF tools beyond what the options I’ve listed below, but they will provide plenty of variety and keep your team plenty busy:
- CloudApp allows you to capture screen and upload it as an easily shareable GIF or silky smooth 60fps high quality video
- GIF Brewery, a Mac app, lets you convert videos on your computer to GIFs with customizations like playing them in reverse and adding text overlays and color effects
- Recordit lets you demonstrate on-screen functions GIF-style
- Giffer, an iPhone app, lets you convert smartphone videos to GIFs; as well as trim and add text
- Google Photos App organizes your photos and makes it easy to create animated GIFs from them
What’s been your brand’s experience using GIFs?