Social Media

The Rise of the GIF: 5 Ways Brands Can Use Short-Form Video

February 22, 2013

GIFs have been around for 25 years, but they’re exploding in popularity in a web that caters to visuals and content curators. As explained in the New York Times last week, “GIFs function as glorified emoticons” with the ability to punctuate a moment.

In this special GIF-format report, we explore why GIFs are enjoying a renaissance, how to create successful GIFs and five ways brands can use them to their advantage.

Read the synopsis below then head over to our Tumblr page for the full report.

What is a GIF?

GIFs are pieces of short-form video content that live somewhere between image and video. They’re created from moments in video clips, original drawings or creations or in the case of cinemagraphs, by animating small portions of videos to create art.

Why GIFs now?

It’s hard to believe that the 2012 “Word of the Year” (as named by Oxford Dictionary) has been around for 25 years, but GIFs have enjoyed a recent resurgence as more and more people turn to them for sharing moments from videos and telling stories across social media and blogs. GIFs have hit their stride thanks to easy tools to create them, and bandwidth from platforms to share tons of visual content.

5 Ways Brands Can Use GIFs

Brands are increasingly utilizing the GIF format because they are easy to consume, easy to share and built in a flexible format that’s ripe for moments of simple creativity. Here are five ways brands can use GIFs to connect with consumers:

  1. To Tell a Story: One of the best things about the animated GIF is its unique ability to tell a bite-sized story — and quicker than video. Sets of GIFs can also tell different parts of the story to fit together, drawing fans into the bigger picture. For example, 360i client Coca-Cola used GIFs to re-imagine the “12 Days of Christmas” as the “12 Days of GIFs” on their Tumblr. The animated format let the brand tap into Tumblr culture and creatively bring their brand story to life.
  2. To Capture Emotion: GIFs are well-suited for sharing a short scene or mood.  What started as sharing clips from pop culture has helped usher in a flurry of “reaction GIFs” — people using a GIF as a reaction to a mood or moment. Got to get up early?  Cue a Ferris Bueller grimace. One of the more popular reaction blogs “What Should We Call Me” has inspired brands like HBO’s Girls to create their own versions on moments that relate to the themes of the show.
  3. To Be Premium: While GIFs represent media of the masses, high resolution GIFs can create highly shareable premium content that highlights brand attributes.  A simple scene can elevate a brand by showing the richness of flavors or the glamour of a luxury fashion brand. The cinemagraph, a type of GIF popularized by Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg, helped usher in the premium era of GIFs. Shot using professional camera equipment, they only animate a small portion of the image to give depth and life to photography. Dogfish Head used the cinemagraph to create a tantalizing series of GIFs showing their brewing process, from picking the fruits to the perfect pour.
  4. To Heighten Action: Video has traditionally been the way to share highlights or the action from a live show, but GIFs have made it even easier. For sports brands or brands with lots of live events, GIFs can get content out to the masses quickly and bring to life the live action for the web. Adidas Football, for example, uses its Tumblr to share action shots from great football moments.  Tumblr HQ “live-GIFed” the presidential debates that helped push unintentionally hilarious responses across the web before closing remarks.
  5. To Be Sharable: For content publishers and entertainment brands, GIFs are a great alternative to video. The format lets publishers share top clips and scenes for fans to share — and can often get higher response than a traditional video since GIFs can be viewed in two seconds and don’t require a click of the play button. 360i client USA Network uses GIFs as a way to give fans a sneak peek of episodes of the show “SUITS.”  They’re a great way to motivate sharing by sharing GIFs of scenes as they air — letting fans share the moments they love in episodes with shareable content in near real time.
View this post in GIF-format on Tumblr.