The massive amount of content fighting for attention in clients’ inboxes has definitely made being an email marketer tougher. Marketers are trying fresh subject lines, images, and copy to entice readers to not only open but also click through.

Today we’re going to dive into one old-school internet tool that is now a popular trend in email.

What is a GIF?

You’ve seen them all over the internet, but did you know that GIFs are one of the oldest web file formats? GIFs have been around before smartphones! Developed by CompuServe in 1987, GIFs have been taking the internet by storm for decades.

GIFs are so attractive to email marketers because they are so simple to incorporate. These are image files, not video, so there is no audio or massive file size to consider. Similar to a flipbook, a GIF is a series of quick-moving images so that they appear as a short video. These loop endlessly but are typically about 4 seconds long.

Are you starting to see why this compact, easy to upload, and widely accepted image format is being adopted more frequently by email marketers?

Benefits of using GIFs in Emails

Especially when it comes to email, GIFs give marketers a lot of opportunities to not only entertain but also engage and educate their audiences. GIFs work because they’re simple – no audio, only super short video. You don’t need a whole creative team to create GIFs, they can be created from existing assets and they can be reshared from a multitude of sources. Let’s dive into some of the ways you can start using GIFs to create more engaging emails.

1.   Draw Them In

GIFs draw the eye, especially in traditionally static channels like email. If there is a product, service, or event you want to draw attention to, using a GIF can be a winning strategy.

When motion isn’t expected, as it might be in your social feed, it becomes much more grabbing and powerful. It can be subtle like someone taking off a jacket or flames moving in a fireplace. A lot of images already in your library can be turned into simple GIFs or copy can be animated into a GIF using a simple tool like Canva. Use these in place of the original planned image or headline copy.

2.   Show Off Product

Any products or services that perform better with a “show vs tell” strategy can hugely benefit from GIFs. Instead of trying to show with static images or trying to push people to a full video, you can grab their attention with some movement right in the email.

GIFs give you much more range without packing too much in one email. If there are different colors of a product, that can be a GIF. If a product serves a surprising or hidden function, that can be a GIF. If a service takes several images to explain, that can be a GIF. Use them strategically to highlight something hidden, exciting, or interesting.

3.   Educate and Inform

Use GIFs to demonstrate simple steps, show the first few seconds of a much-asked-for tutorial, or explain the versatility of a product.

GIFs give marketers a lot of power to inform their readers because they are so eye-catching. And we all know, some things are easier to understand when you can see them. This is exactly the opportunity to do that. Reversible products can show how easy it is to flip them. New clothing items can be shown styled in several ways. Software companies can show where new tech updates can be found in a dashboard.

4.   Highlight Video Content

Let’s be honest, sometimes a still with a play button isn’t as grabbing as seeing 3-seconds of an important part of the video. GIFs give marketers the opportunity to show critical moments within the videos that would get people to want to watch the rest.

Especially for companies that produce a lot of video content, it would be a simple task to create GIFs of the videos and use those in emails as a way to entice people to click through and watch. Another strategy is to use GIFs towards the bottom of the email to pull people’s attention downwards. If your video content usually ends up in the second half of a campaign, GIFs could be the answer to more engagement!

5.   Inject Personality

Because GIFs are generally comedic and fun, they immediately add a touch of playfulness to emails. In turn, this adds a touch of personality and realness to the brand. It immediately humanizes any brand because we’re so used to using GIFs as an expression of emotion, from frustration to joy.

If you’ve been having a hard time connecting with your clients, using GIFs is a great way to help personalize the brand AND make yourself memorable. GIFs aren’t oversaturated in emails yet, so sending campaigns with them naturally makes them stand out. But that is slowly changing, 51.28% of marketers said they’re using animated GIFs at least sometimes in their marketing emails. Don’t get behind the curve!

Of course, this personality needs to fit with the brand and be in line with your audience. If using GIFs from popular TV shows is not something your audience would resonate with, stick to some of the other examples in this article or create your own branded GIFs.

Get Creative

Ultimately, injecting GIFs into your email marketing strategy is about getting creative and thinking outside the box. GIFs are not limited to memes or movie snippets. Pictures from company outings, videos from webinars, and even simple text headlines can be turned into GIFs.

If you’ve already had a talking to from your legal department about using copyright material, never fear! You can still use the assets at your fingertips to take advantage of this strategy to diversify and create better visual content.

Lisa Rios