Everything You Need to Know About Using Cool GIFs in Your Marketing

Everything You Need to Know About Using Cool GIFs in Your Marketing

Written by:
Orana Velarde

Feb 13, 2018
cool gifs in marketing

GIFs have become an indispensable part of our social media interactions, but did you know that GIFs have been around for three decades?

In 2012, GIFs celebrated 25 years of existence on the internet, and they are now over 30 years old! We can’t wait to see how GIFs evolve in 2018 and beyond.

In this post, we'll take a look at examples of cool GIFs that have become viral over the years and a list of practical tips on how to use them in your marketing campaigns.

You can view the visual summary of this post below or click here to read a more detailed explanation of each section.


How to Use Cool GIFs in Your Marketing

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What are GIFs?

The acronym GIF stands for Graphics Interface Format. In 1987, Steve Wilhite and his team of developers at Compuserve created the first GIF. His “flying airplane” paved the way for the GIF phenomenon.

TIL the first Gif created was an airplane

In the beginning, GIFs were simple moving images that could be placed on any kind of background and were actually quite small. Now we have GIFs in all sorts of styles, from video-clip GIFs to optical illusion GIFs and more.

Early GIFs, like the one below from the Geocities era, evolved along with the advancement of social sharing websites like Geocities, Myspace, and later Imgur and Tumblr, which are the platforms that launched GIFs into the online mainstream. GIFs are now in our messaging apps, in our email providers, and we can even create our own cool GIFs in the blink of an eye.


If you visit the well known GIF site Giphy, you will find all sorts of GIFs that can be downloaded or embedded on your website. You can even share directly to social media from Giphy, making it even easier to send a GIF to your friends and followers.


The Battle Over Pronunciation

One of the most memorable aspects of GIF culture is the online battle over how the word is pronounced. In 2012, the year that the GIF turned 25, Mr Wilhite was awarded a Lifetime Achievement award at the annual Webby Awards. As part of his acceptance speech, he declared that the proper way to pronounce GIF is with a soft g.

This means that GIF is meant to sound like JIF, the peanut butter.

There are even GIFs on how to pronounce GIF!

Everyone know Bugs Bunny is cooler


Different Kinds of GIFs

Since GIFs have evolved so much over the years, it’s only natural that different types have arisen. Some GIFs are better for messaging, others are ideal for blog posts and presentations and others are regarded more as GIF art. Let’s take a look at the different types of GIFs.


Reaction GIFs

Reaction GIFs are mostly used in messaging and commenting. Instead of typing a response or sending an emoji, users can send one of thousands of reaction GIFs available right inside the messenger dashboard. Most reaction GIFs are bits and pieces of videos or movies looped into a GIF. The most memorable are those that include celebrities, such as this one which means: “I’m only here for the comments.”

This is the animated image of Michael Jackson eating popcorn being uploaded so that I can share my opinion on an event which doesn't affect me, but which is affecting many people on imgur.

Reaction GIFs make up an entire section on the Giphy website. The list includes reaction GIFs with animals and also featured reactions. It’s no surprise that these are the most loved GIFs on the internet nowadays.

Charles Dance applause GIF


Illustration and Cartoon GIFs

These are GIFs that were illustrated specifically to be turned into a GIF. The illustrations are animated to look seamless and are usually quite colorful and bright.

This GIF was very popular when David Bowie passed away.

RIP David Bowie. I can't believe he's dead.


Optical Illusion GIFs

Optical illusion GIFs are similar to illustration GIFs but have an added bonus that the illustration is an optical illusion. These are regarded more as art GIFs.




When GIFs first appeared during the early years of the internet via Myspace and other social sharing sites, digital artists started playing with the .gif format to create cool GIFs of their own. There were even digital art exhibitions solely about GIF art. Nowadays, GIF art is found right along reaction GIFs on sites like Giphy.




These cool GIFs are quite special. They are not like the normal GIFs in the sense that they look more like a photograph but with an added bonus. These moving images are basically a photograph with a section that moves endlessly in a loop, giving a feeling of being stuck in a magical moment in time.

The first cinemagraphs were created by Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck in 2011. Cinemagraphs were first created as GIFs but later as HTML5 video for a higher quality image. Both formats work fine for cinemagraphs.



Branded GIFs

These are GIFs which are specifically created by a brand to use in their digital marketing campaigns. It can be any kind of GIF! Most brands use them to showcase products or a special event such as a big sale.


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Different Ways to Use Cool GIFs in Marketing

There are plenty of ways in which your brand can make use of GIF marketing. You essentially have two choices as to what kind of GIF to use. Either use a GIF that you can source from Giphy or create a special one for your brand.

RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About Emoji Marketing


When Choosing a GIF from Giphy

Just like with all other marketing styles, you have to consider the following things when choosing a GIF:

  1. Does it match your message?
  2. Does it match your visual branding style?
  3. Is it appropriate, not only for your brand but also for the message it conveys?
  4. Is it visually appealing? GIF fails can be deadly!
  5. Does it follow legal standards? A largely recognized brand might not want to use reaction GIFs with celebrities in them.

For example, this GIF could easily be used by a bakery or a sandwich cafe:



When Creating a GIF or Hiring a Designer

There is a lot more creative freedom when it comes to creating your own GIF. The looped animation can be designed specifically to portray something about your brand that you would like to bring attention to.

These are the things to consider when creating your own GIF for a marketing campaign.

  1. What aspect of your business is especially appealing and could be turned into an interesting GIF?
  2. Is there a product or group of products you want to showcase?
  3. Is there something about your brand that you would like to call attention to? Animating it would do exactly that.
  4. Is there an important sale or promotion happening?

Sprout Social created a GIF to showcase their new app. This is a perfect way to use a GIF to show how an app works.



How to Use Cool GIFs as Part of Your Marketing

Apart from sending a GIF in an email newsletter to your subscribers, there are other creative ideas that you can incorporate into your GIF marketing:

  • Organize a GIF contest in which your customers use one of your products to create a GIF.
  • Share GIFs from Giphy to catch their attention on social media. Twitter gets great results when you use GIFs. Be conscious of the legal aspects of reaction GIFs if you have a big brand.
  • Create a cool GIF that shows off your brand’s personality and put it up on Tumblr, Giphy or Imgur for everyone to see and share!

Check out the Tumblr account for Denny’s Diner. This GIF is one of the favorites of all time from the vast collection of Denny’s GIFs.


  • Create a cinemagraph that showcases a detail from your product in a special way. Check out this cinemagraph campaign by Stuart Weitzman. These were designed by the original creators of the cinemagraph.


  • Use a free source cinemagraph style GIF on your website instead of a photo, it takes up less space and also less time to load.


  • Use a “Play The Gif” GIF, either shared from the Play The Gif Social Media sites or contact them for a branded option.

  • Go the extra mile and use emojis in your branded GIFs. Emoji marketing is huge right now and it’s not going anywhere. Check out what General Electrics is doing over at Emoji Science!


  • Send GIFs in Thank You Tweets. A “Thank You Tweet” is a response tweet to someone who shared something of yours and mentioned you. Thanking people on Twitter has always been a good idea—using a GIF is even better!

  • Include GIFs in an infographic. Creating infographics for blog posts has become an important visual strategy that is still growing steadily. As you know, we love infographics here at Visme! This is an article we published that explains how to use cool GIFs in an infographic:


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  • Create a GIF version of your logo. This is a new way to get your logo seen online. It can be uploaded as a video file in the header section of your Facebook Page or used as an email header for your newsletters. Of course, it can also be used on your website.



How to Use Cool GIFs on Social Media

Apart from all the ideas we just gave you, there is always the easy option of using GIFs on social media. Here is a rundown on how to use GIFs on your favorite social media channels.

Using GIFs on Instagram

Instagram doesn’t let you post .gif format files, only still photos or videos. The way around this hurdle is to install the Giphy app on your phone and share images from there onto your Instagram account. The app simply turns the GIF into a video file and voila! You’ve posted a GIF on Instagram.

This is my Instagram post with a GIF in which I talk about writing this article:

Im writing an epic article about GIF marketing for the @vismeapp blog. Its so interesting! Stay tuned for the link. Thanks @giphy #gifmarketing #digitalnomad #freelancewriter #visualstrategist

A post shared by Visual Strategist (@orana.creative) on

Using GIFs on Facebook

There are a few ways in which GIFs can be used on Facebook. GIFs are incorporated into Facebook and are easy to use.

  1. Post a GIF straight from the update window. GIFs are an option along with photos and stickers.
  2. Post a GIF as a reply to a photo, video or another GIF.
  3. Post a GIF in a comment thread.
  4. Send a GIF in a message

If using your own custom GIF, add it as a .gif format image or video file in a post, a reply or a message.

RELATED: Why You Should Focus Your Marketing Efforts On Mobile Ads and Social Media


Using GIFs on Twitter

GIFs on Twitter are just as easy to use as GIFs on Facebook. They can be included in Tweets and in Replies, straight from the tweet window. If using a custom GIF, just upload from your computer.

cool gifs in marketing twitter


How to Make GIFs

Making your own GIFs couldn’t be easier!

Online Options

The two biggest sites for easy and fast GIF creation are Giphy GIF Maker and Make a GIF.

Both have options for uploading a group of images or creating a video clip. You can also upload from a URL or from Facebook and YouTube. Make a GIF has an “upload from webcam” option as well.

If you don’t want to upload anything, Giphy has some in-site creation tools too. These are of course limited, but can be fun as well.

We created this GIF in less than five minutes with Giphy:



With a Designer

If you aren’t exactly tech savvy or don’t feel like you have the time to make a GIF yourself, you can also hire a designer (or GIF expert) to create a customized GIF for your brand. Most graphic designers should be able to create a branded GIF for your business.

If you love the cinemagraph style GIF, you can contact Kevin and Jamie at Cinemagraphs. They offer specialized cinemagraph creation for brands. You just have to get in contact via their manager through the website.


Bonus (and Funny) GIF Trivia

GIFs are funny little things, and also a bit elusive for some internet users. Yahoo Answers is full of this particular question:

“My printer won't print GIFs properly?

I think I'm doing something wrong because whenever I print my animations, they don't move. Am I doing something wrong?”

This question was asked so often that a creative genius thought of a way to actually “print" GIFs. He created the GifBook:


Check out the best GIFs of 2017!


Over to You

How will you incorporate cool GIFs into your marketing this year? If you are already using GIFs in your marketing, we’d love to see what you have come up with! Let us know in the comments section below.

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    About the Author

    Orana is a multi-faceted creative. She is a content writer, artist, and designer. She travels the world with her family and is currently in Istanbul. Find out more about her work at oranavelarde.com

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