A collage of classic GIFs

GIF the People What They Want

You’ve heard these things a million times at this point: Our lives are driven by visual-content. We have the attention spans of goldfish. Brands are competing for that attention among tens of thousands of other advertising messages every day.

This is the reality we live in as marketers – and in this reality, GIFS are one medium that have reached mass popularity. To put some data behind that, GIPHY(the largest GIF-hosting platform) sees 1 billion searches from 700 million unique users every single day.[1] To put that in perspective, it is estimated that there are 3.5 billion Google searches every day. That means there are nearly a third as many searches for the perfect GIF as there are for anything else on the internet.

As GIFs exploded in popularity, more and more brands have tapped into their potential as a way to connect with consumers. You’ve likely seen GIFs all over your own digital world, whether directly in a text message, across different social platforms, embedded in email newsletters or articles, etc. This makes that lingering question of “what should my brand do with GIFs?” even more complex. We’ve been hearing this question from clients more and more so we’ve put together an overview of ways for brands to approach using GIFS.

A few key things to understand about GIFs:

  • It’s not just for Gen Z. Yes, GIFs reach more than 80% of 18-24 year olds. But GIFs also reach 60% of the entire population over 18.[2]

  • GIFs are a conversation tool. They are reactions, expressions, entertainment, or things you want to talk about.
  • Most of the GIFs you see in the world come from the GIPHY database. When you hit the GIF button in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Messenger, Whatsapp, iMessage and more, they are pulling from the GIPHY API.

Here are few a ways brands can incorporate GIFs into their overall content strategy:

Create branded GIFs

The most direct approach would be to concept and create branded GIFs. There are three types of conversational content you could capture to create these GIFs:

1 – Evergreen expressions or reactions

Things like “Yes” “Excited” “OMG” “Exhausted”. Here at C+K we made some fun ones with the Energizer Bunny.

2 – Timely happenings

Birthdays, days of the week, seasons.

3 – Culture moments

If it makes sense for your brand, you could create GIFs that align with holidays, award shows, or sporting events.

Pro-tip

If you have community managers or customer service reps having one-on-one conversations with customers on social media or messaging apps, you could arm them with a bank of generic reaction or expression GIFs for more interesting engagement.

For maximum reach, a brand would then house those GIFS on a GIPHY brand page and incorporate a tagging strategy so they are easily found in search. For further amplification, GIPHY does offer ad products like Promoted Search or Trending Feed.

You’re already creating digital content. Make it GIF‑like.

Instead of your usual image or video in social posts or emails, use looping videos to make these GIF-like. Your audience speaks this language and it will feel like a natural fit to them.

Play with what you got.

Maybe a GIF-specific production is not in the books right now. Or maybe you need a little more convincing before diving in headfirst. Go through footage you currently have available to you and see if there are opportunities to create looping videos that represent expressions or reactions and can be easily uploaded to GIPHY.

These are just a few ways brands can use GIFS and we encourage you to try different approaches and see which works best with your audience. Lastly, if you’ve read this far and were hoping this post would answer whether it’s pronounced “GIF” or “JIF”... here’s what I have for you: The man who created GIFs in 1987, Steve Wilhite, made a very unpopular statement in 2017 that it is in fact pronounced, “JIF.” However, the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary was noncommittal, and has since stated that the dictionary accepts both pronunciations.


  1. Source: GIPHY Research

  2. Source: GIPHY Research

Paige Robertson is a Senior Strategist at Camp + King’s San Francisco office. She is a frequent user of “happy hour” and “high five” GIFs.