Priya Nain
Author: Priya Nain  |  

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You have to be living in a cave to not know what a GIF is.

A Short, flashy, continuous, soundless animation. Usually silly, but used to express a situation, mood, or tell instructions. That’s a GIF.

Okay, no time for small talk. Let’s move on to the juicy, useful stuff.

Universal Appeal

GIFs can express without language barriers. A GIF of a baby pig sticking its head outside the window & smiling will express happiness no matter what country you are in or what language you speak.

GIFs are not social media fad, they are important non-verbal communication tools.

When coupled with email, which is already the most effective communication channel, they can boost engagement and eventually build your fan base.

Movement attracts attention

People are skimming your content, without any mercy to H2, bold, italics. What can grab their attention?

Motion.

And what’s better than the continuous motion of GIFs.


Human beings are biased towards motion & it has its roots in flight and fight response inherited from our ancestors who had to survive in the wilderness. So the point is, when something moves, we are hardwired to notice it.

I am sure some genius marketer was tasked with increasing the click to open rate of emails and he was saved by the not-so-humble GIFs.

Visuals are more effective than words - not just what you say, but how you say

As a daily writer of emails, copy and journals I am passionate about written expression but people have the attention span of a goldfish and I have to express and connect with them quickly.

Ok, I see you rolling eyes and saying, ‘what about jpg, png and all those beautiful images?’

Well, I want to quote a less popular shower thought here - if a picture is a thousand words… a GIF is worth a thousand pictures.

Visuals, especially moving ones, express not just what you say, but how you say. Just to give an example with a simple word ‘okay’.

If I had to say okay to my mom for telling me to clean my room, I would use this:

Okay, Okay

If I had to say okay to my brother for telling me that he has picked up the box of cheesecakes from the shop and is coming home, I would use this:

Okay

A ‘smile’ gif can be about happiness, mocking or reassuring. You can use an animal or your favorite actor. Your vocabulary with GIFs is limitless.

Supported across email clients, unlike videos

Videos are poorly supported across all major email clients. That’s where GIFs come in. GIFs are supported across all email clients except Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013. To show a short clip, a GIF is a more popular way than linking to a video that takes you outside the email.

How are GIFs used?

Let’s look at a few examples and understand the innovative ways GIFs are being used in emails:

To explain the features of a product

What better way to explain the new animation style than use GIF.

Canva did it brilliantly in this email. It literally took them two text lines and a 4 sec GIF to launch a new feature to their audience.  Notice how they didn’t show you all the new features and that leaves some room for curiosity.

As a marketer, my fantasy job is to optimize people’s tinder (dating app) profile for higher conversions.

Until I take that up officially, let’s see how creatively Tinder shows how you can go from creating a bio to swiping right in 4 simple steps. With the CTA ‘Get started now’, it does a good job of converting subscribers to platform users. All done with custom GIFs created in-house.

I am swiping right to this idea.

To display a thought

Check how this newsletter by AngelList shows the concept of correlation between social media, moderation & cost of implementing it in a single GIF. When thoughts or facts are accompanied by GIFs, they are simplified and hence we tend to engage more with them.

To promote varieties available in a product

Bonobos is able to highlight more than one pattern of their new series of shirts with this BIG GIF style in their email.

Here you can see each pattern on a grander scale and without the distraction of other patterns, unlike what would happen if they use tiny images of each pattern. It just gives you a glimpse & teases you so that you would want to check out the full products on the website.

Your shopaholic audience will surely hit that ‘shop now’ button even before the next loop of GIF starts.

To show a preview of a video

The preview of a video is a great way to improve conversion and generate interest. There is no doubt about that. But as we mentioned earlier that video formats are still not supported in email, you can take advantage of GIFs and show off the best clips from your video. Make people think about what they will miss if they don’t watch the video.

Couple it with a ‘Watch Now’ CTA and you will hit the right tones that make people click to open the link.

To show the benefits of your product in particular situations

It’s always more powerful to show than tell.

Someone at Headspace has his head screwed on pretty correctly that they came up with this GIF that shows you how the product will benefit you and even gives you idea about places where you can use it.

Just for Fun

When people like you and associate positive feelings with your emails, they are more likely to be associated with you, buy from you and follow you. It’s not my theory, but a persuasion technique called ‘likeability’ made famous by the book Influence, by Robert B. Cialdini.

One simple way to do this is to use humor in your emails.

We are far away from the times when everyone was sad and busy because of Hitler, or smallpox. Let’s use some humor with cute, funny, silly, exaggerated GIFs.
Of course, align it with your brand and don’t go overboard.

GIFs have evolved

Text as GIF

GIFs are not just cute cat animations. Even Text can be combined with GIFs.

GIF in background

You can be creative and add GIFs as background. It will definitely make readers stay on the email longer as they will see something new - a GIF in background.

GIF is the new CTA

Read the lines below this bouncing balloon.

Aren’t your fingers twitching because you want to click the balloon? I can only imagine the click-to-open rate for this email.

4 simple tips for using GIFs in emails

Don’t over do it

I am sure your brain neurons are exploding with GIF ideas right now but don’t include too many GIFs in your emails. One is more than enough and ideally you want to have only one point of focus in your email.

Don’t make it heavy

As most people are viewing emails on mobile, you should keep the size as low as less than 2MB so your GIF loads instantly and doesn’t eat up too much data.

Make it purposeful

Don’t use GIF just because a stranger on the internet is telling you all of its benefits. Always think what purpose is it fulfilling? Am I able to express better, exaggerate a point, connect humanly or move people towards taking action?

Don’t put the GIF as an attachment

You are not so naive but still putting it as reminder - always put the GIF in the body of the email & preview it before scheduling your email.

What’s your next step?

Next step is to checkout these collections of avant-garde GIFs: (Only high quality links)

Giphy: It is the ultimate place to get GIFs for any occasion or emotion. You can download GIFs others have made. You can create your own for free using images or video snippets of youtube links.

Gfycat: Another popular website like Giphy with apps available  for iphone & android phones.

Reactiongifs: You can think of any reaction from ‘Hell, yeah!’ to ‘not today’ and they will have a GIF for it. All GIFs have relevant tags so searching is not an issue.

A GIF carries just enough of a particular moment to show emotion yet leaves enough out to spark your curiosity. That’s what we all try to do with marketing, right?

So do try GIFs in your next email campaign & let us know how it goes. I would even suggest you do an A/B test to see how an email with a GIF vs the one without GIF performs.

Since I am talking about A/B testing feature (fancy enough?) , let me introduce to you - SendX. An email marketing platform that will align with your email marketing strategy while giving you features like A/B testing, email templates, automations and integrations. Do check it out here for free for 14-days before you even pay a penny or give them your precious credit card.