3 Reasons GIFs Have a Place in Your Marketing

We’ve all seen the GIFs of yesteryear: Flashing letters. Hokey cartoons. The dancing baby. Today, these are distractions and lack a certain classiness. Kind of like using WordArt. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t use an animated GIF, it just means you need to use them in a more sophisticated way and with an appropriate animation.

Okay, before we start, is it tomato or tomahto? Potato or potahto. Is it GIF or JIF? The creator of the format called Graphics Interchange Format, Steve Wilhite, says “jif” like the peanut butter. I’ve always said GIF with a hard “g.” The battle over how it’s pronounced is documented very well in a NY Times article “Battle Over ‘GIF’ Pronunciation Erupts” … but I’ll still say GIF.

The GIF format created in 1987 was popular due to its wide support across browsers and email clients. And in the early days, the animated GIF was one of the primary ways to add movement to a Web page.

We’ve all seen them. Flashing letters. Hokey cartoons. The dancing baby. Today, these are distractions and lack a certain classiness. Kind of like using WordArt.

7 Up SpotDrudge Siren Dancing Baby gifEmail me mailbox openUnder construction gifMy advice: Don’t do this today. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t use an animated GIF, it just means you need to use them in a more sophisticated way and with an appropriate animation. An animation that will enhance your message, not distract from it. Here are three reasons to consider the use of an animated GIF in your marketing messages:

1. Instructions/Training

Macaw demonstration gifIn this example, software company Macaw uses this GIF to demonstrate one of the features in its software. This is an excellent way to show a feature without forcing someone to watch a video or have to scroll through three to four static pictures. It quickly shows functionality.

You can use this type of animated GIF in an e-newsletter, too. Imagine showing a feature for a new version of software as Sprout Social has done below. It’s a case where the animation enhances the message.

Sprout Social gif2. Subtle Sense of Reality

Headscape homepage gifHeadscape, a digital media company in the UK, has a very subtle animation on its home page featuring an office scene (I highly suggest checking the site out via the link, since the image above is static and not animated … we weren’t able to capture the GIF). Notice the subtle movements of the pen and the person sipping coffee. I find these wonderful surprises.

Taking this one step further, you can create a cinemagraph, an animated GIF usually made from high-end photographs. The next two examples show how you can enhance a photo with either dramatic movement in the case of the Tokyo GIF or the more subtle Taxi Reflection. In both cases the animation enhances the viewing experience in an elegant way.

Tokyo cinemagraph
Cinemagraph courtesy of reddit user eatrob
Taxi cab window cinemagraph
Cinemagraph courtesy of Ann Street Studio. This studio produces wonderfully subtle cinemagraphs.

3. Enhance an Offer

You can use animated GIFs in fun ways to enhance an offer. The GIF can physically highlight the offer or simply bring attention to it.

Why Don’t Millennials Use Cash?

When’s the last time you saw a Millennial pay with cash? Even convenience store purchases of less than $5 are paid with a debit card. Coffee in Starbucks is paid via cell phone. Money is exchanged between friends using PayPal and Venmo.

As I paid a dinner check, my Millennial daughter affectionately quipped, “You old people and your cash!”

My response was, “Everybody likes cash!” I was wrong of course, (and perhaps prejudiced by my South Philly roots, where some businesses are still “cash only” for one reason or another).

When’s the last time you saw a Millennial pay with cash? Even convenience store purchases of less than $5 are paid with a debit card. Coffee in Starbucks is paid via cell phone. Money is exchanged between friends using PayPal and Venmo.

Many of the Millennials I give birthday gifts to prefer gift cards to specific retailers, like Home Depot or Banana Republic, rather than cash that they can spend anywhere.

A survey by TD Bank of 1,300 Americans, reported in ABA Bank Marketing last month, found that 25 percent of Americans either currently use or have used a reloadable prepaid card in the past two to three years. But among Millennials (ages 18 to 34), this proportion jumps to 33 percent. According to FICO, more than one-third of Millennials are expected to use a mobile wallet in 2015. (Opens as a PDF)

Professor Bernardo Batiz-Lazo of Bangor University, Wales, speculates that Millennials’ predisposition for non-cash transactions could eventually result in the demise of ATMs. His blog post reprinted by Newstex last month states:

“Perhaps the biggest issue shaping ATMs in the near future will concern the choices of Millennials, those for whom the Internet, mobile phones and plastic cards are a fact of life, checks are unknown and cash is quaint. They challenge financial institutions and their business models to do more, faster because they have easier and faster access to better technology than offered by the banks’ legacy systems through the multitude of apps on their smartphones, wearables, tablets and elsewhere. Left to their own devices, Millennials could spell the end of the ATM by 2035 or thereafter.”

Now of course the use of electronic payment methods is not limited to just Millennials. Boomers and Silents are also moving away from cash transactions, but Millennials are certainly leading the charge. If your business requires a minimum purchase to use a card, you’re probably losing customers among the largest demographic group. Millennials represent 24.6 percent of the population vs. 23.3 percent for the Baby Boomers.

I’m waiting to see the first panhandler with a card reader. Let me know if you spot one.