Speak Creative | The Power of the GIF

The Power of the GIF

As humans, we’ve learned to communicate in a staggering number of ways. There are roughly 6,500 different spoken languages in the world, and those don’t include sign language, body language, or any other form of communication. We’ve sent letters and postcards. We’ve made telephone calls. We’ve recorded videos and sent texts and emails! The list goes on and on.

But there’s one particular form of communication that has come full circle.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: The GIF. The GIF can be a powerful tool in your marketing strategy if you know how to use it.

My Grandparents Didn’t Use GIFs!

Now, before you put on your rocket pack and abandon this post, hear me out. Prehistoric man used cave paintings to record history and culture. They left messages for those who would come later, explaining how to perform a task, or warning them of some threat that they themselves faced. And they did this with remarkable skill. Cave paintings helped to fill in some critical gaps and even helped us pinpoint the existence of one species with another.

Later, cultures began to cultivate written languages, which existed mostly in the form of pictures or hieroglyphics. And even now, countries like Japan and China use characters that can denote entire concepts with the few strokes of a pen.

Regardless of how you are communicating, your goal is the same: to disseminate information and keep the reader’s attention long enough for them to absorb the information. 

So What Does This Have to Do With GIFs?

With the advent of the internet, knowledge is gathered and obtained at lightning-fast speeds.  And as we move more and more of our lives into a virtual space, it would only make sense that we learn to communicate more effectively while doing so.

As writers and marketing professionals, it’s our job to convey information as quickly and as effectively as possible. We have a fraction of a second to acquire and keep our audience’s attention. And much like the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, a viewer’s vision is often based on movement. Perhaps not a video, but just a few seconds of something eye-catching can be more than enough to make your audience stop and engage your brand in a meaningful way.

Enter the GIF!

Some devotees of the written word will tell you that a GIF cannot convey a message as accurately as text can. And in some cases, that’s true. By and large, GIFs are typically reserved for lighter material, not a serious piece of editorial. But if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a well-placed GIF might as well be like winning the word lottery.


The Benefits of Using GIFs

GIFs aren’t a new phenomenon. They’ve been around since the early days of the internet, and their popularity has surged in recent years. Although they’re popular with younger generations like millennials and Gen Z-ers, even older audiences are learning to communicate via GIF, making them the perfect cross-generational tool for both internal and external marketing efforts.

Easy To Consume

As I mentioned earlier, you have a very small window through which to grab your audience’s attention. A GIF allows your audience to consume your brand content more easily. The more interesting and eye-catching your information is, the more likely they are to take a moment out of their own busy day and give you a second of their time. Furthermore, it increases your audience’s retention. The majority of people only remember 20% of what they read, so it makes sense to give them something they can quickly snap up and remember.


The use of modern GIFs as a tool for communication has grown from the ever-changing meme culture that shapes our vast digital landscape. In part, this is due to the fact that GIFs quickly convey a message that you’d otherwise be expected to eloquently express in text. Happiness, sadness, confusion, disbelief; as far as emotions are concerned, GIFs run the gamut.  And it doesn’t even stop there!


GIFs also provide subtle nuance and tone that is often absent in the average block of text. Take the example below for instance: The general sentiment is the same. Everyone’s rolling their eyes, but they all convey something just a little different. Are we bored? Resigned? Have we had absolutely enough?

That’s the best part!  GIFs can act as an extension of our own personalities as individuals and as a brand.

When and Where to Use GIFs

So now that we know why GIFs are useful, let’s discuss where and when to use them. Let me reiterate that not every situation calls for this particular tool. Using a GIF can completely backfire if used incorrectly. If you’re discussing something serious and suddenly Donald Duck appears, you’re going to come off as insincere, or worse, you’ll lose credibility. So how should you use a GIF?

To Explain a Process

GIFs are perfect for showcasing short processes. Maybe you want to give a small tutorial on how to make hamburgers, or how to do a simple craft. The simpler a task is, the more likely your audience is to try it themselves, especially if they can see how little time the process actually takes. This can be a great way to get customers to engage with your brand. It can also open the door for you to have direct discourse with them through your website or social media.

To Show Off Brand Personality

We’ve already touched on this, but GIFs are a great way to give your brand life and personality beyond static pictures, colors, and font choices. Are you a thought-leader? Are you fashionable? Are you cheery, snarky, or silly? GIFs are commonly used through social media. Your Tweet could be one well-placed gif away from getting that coveted retweet.

In Email Marketing

Statistically, emails that contain GIFs get more responses than those that don’t. Something simple and on-brand can go quite a long way in encouraging your audience to click through to see that great deal you’re running, that important update you’ve just pushed, or simply to get them to your site.

To Recap

We’ve talked about a lot: Cavemen, unicorns, emails. It’s been a whirlwind. All of this to explain the very basic idea that despite thousands of years of evolution and development that we as humans have returned to using pictures to record our memories, express our feelings, and get the attention of others. GIFs are modern-day cave paintings and hieroglyphs that are actively shaping the digital space in measurable, repeatable ways that we as marketing professionals can use to our advantage.

Let’s Chat 

Do you need help utilizing the full power of the GIF in your marketing strategy? Maybe modern trends such as the GIF have left you feeling overwhelmed and you don’t know where to start? Our team of digital experts can help, just drop us a note below. 

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Posted by Katy Sloan at 07:35