Using GIFs in Email Marketing: The Hows, the Whys, and the Brands That Nailed It

The “Graphics Interchange Format”, or GIF format of images, used to be something unique that users didn’t exactly see all the time. Now, it’s something that people use on a daily basis.
The GIF format is an image format that is used to describe animated images. Essentially, a GIF is not very different from the flipbooks we loved as children. And, much like a proper flipbook, a GIF doesn’t carry sound — which is its main difference from a video.
GIFs, at some point, were purely a social media phenomenon, dominating DMs and social media posts. However, their popularity led many marketers to use them in their email marketing campaigns as a means to get more engagement out of their emails.
So, are GIFs in email useful? Yes. Are they supposed to be used as visual aids, or can you use them as the “body copy” without the body copy? Well, the answer would be both.
But how?

First Things First: Get the Specifics and Platform Right

Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Well, you’re not wrong, but things are not that bad.
The truth is that there are many ways for your GIF-in-email efforts to go wrong. Consider the following scenarios:
  • The email client does not support GIFs. This is not uncommon, so make sure your first frame communicates all the recipient needs to know.
  • It takes forever to load. Nobody wants to wait for the email’s message to pop up. Just keep the file’s size as small as possible.
  • Your GIF is misplaced. Either it doesn’t serve its purpose, or it’s not something your audience will welcome. Don’t try it without making an educated, analytics-based decision.
The worst-case scenario, though, is you lacking the toolset that will allow you to use GIFs in your email marketing campaigns. So, you’ll need to pick an Email Service Provider (ESP) that will support this feature in some way.
For Moosend’s email marketing tool, for example, adding a GIF is a matter of accessing the Drag-and-Drop email editor and finding the “Image Picker” tab. After that, the Editor’s “Giphy” tab can make your life easier and get you any GIF that you may need.
Alternatively, if you’ve created a GIF and it’s ready and waiting in your computer’s library, you can click on the “Local File” tab and upload your branded content.

You can use GIFs in email marketing for a wide variety of reasons:
  • It’s a fantastic way to “add a video” without adding a video, along with a cinemagraph GIF.
  • An image is worth a thousand words, and your GIF is an animated image that could be more engaging — and, therefore, worth more.
Not to mention how non-magical the “Daily Prophet” would have been, had the pictures not been animated.

Make Sure Everything Matches

GIFs may be images that showcase something but that doesn’t mean that you can leave your brand’s tone behind.
A simple and spot-on brand tone that is well-adjusted to the circumstances, mediums and occasions will give you authority and help you earn your online customers’ trust. Check this out:
So, a unanimous brand tone that matches both your social media and your email marketing, and website content will be something that will make your brand recognizable and keep it top of mind.
The best way to create something spot-on in terms of brand image would be to customize it yourself. So, make GIFs that will look and feel branded.
If you want to save time and resources, check your visuals and use photography, animation, or infographics that you’ve already used in the past by turning them into animated GIFs. Picking out the ones that have the best engagement rates would be a good place to start.

That way, the prospects that already know and love you will recognize you, and the new ones will trust your brand by seeing something they most likely have bumped into before.
Make sure that the GIF in your email and the rest of your content smoothly lead your audience further down the funnel. The primary purpose of email marketing is to nurture relationships and build trust, authority, and a relationship that will nudge prospects into becoming customers. And, by extension, leading you to acquire the email marketing ROI you need.
The copy in your GIF — and in the body of your email, if you choose to use any — needs to contain actionable verbs that will lead to your CTA naturally and without effort. This will allow your email to have a flow similar to the user’s train of thought.

Do It for the Right Reasons

Not all age groups use GIFs, and not all GIFs are appropriate for all industries. For example, I couldn’t imagine a law firm sending out an email newsletter featuring a GIF of Judge Judy.
And even if that were the case, meaning the age group doesn’t “understand” GIFs, in the sense that they don’t find them useful, they shouldn’t be part of your content marketing strategy anyway. Here’s what I mean:
Percentage of U.S. internet users who use Giphy as of January 2018, by age. Source
As you can see in the graph above, avid GIPHY users — the website with one of the most extensive GIF libraries — are aged between 18 and 24. As the age increases, the use of GIFs drops. So, if your target audience is aged somewhere between 45 and 64, maybe GIFs aren’t a good match.
Make sure to study your audience and ensure that the time and effort spent on creating a GIF animation is, in the end, valuable for your audience and yourself.
With Snapchat and TikTok being more popular than ever, it’s clear that this generation can only digest content that lasts only for a couple of seconds. That is why GIFs are more watched than videos.
GIFs are so popular among the age groups mentioned in the graph above because they’re used to technological developments leading to short visuals — videos that are under 3 minutes long, short GIFs, Instagram Boomerangs, Snapchat, etc.

After all, short is way sweeter and more digestible. People belonging to the age groups described above are much more likely to remember your message by seeing it on a bite-sized GIF.
Not to mention how beneficial GIFs are when you’re trying to boost your ROI and conversion rate. GIFs are the perfect mediums to utilize FOMO. Use countdown timers or clever images that show something that is “going-going-gone!” to make recipients understand that this is, perhaps, their last chance to buy.
In that sense, a GIF can also be used as a video preview or even showcase how a specific product works. A GIF could also showcase how clients who purchased the product used it. The possibilities are endless!
And the following brands know that!

Gifs in Email Marketing — The Brands That Nailed It!

A moving image is one that evolves, and evolution is something that attracts a person’s attention. Now, since GIFs are animated images, they’re something customers pay attention to, and something that can show how a brand has evolved through time.
Of course, showing how your brand has grown is no easy feat.
But the brands below did it. Let’s see how.


Always a trendsetter, Nike didn’t disappoint this time — or any other time, as a matter of fact.
As you can see in the example above, Nike stayed true to its color scheme. Minimal, powerful colors that are not too flashy, an athlete front and center, and a clear message with actionable power words. Note how the copy is actionable, and the words are in a natural succession order.

West Elm

This one was equally cute and absolutely genius. You can see how the words “On” and “Off” pique curiosity while the light goes on and off, right?
Now couple that with how this little on/off action casts the spotlight on their copy. Need more? Check out the CTA. Right next to the little lamp, also going on and off. Truly engaging and brilliant!

West Elm

What is the best way to announce a flash sale than… Flashing GIF content?
MeUndies created a GIF for their email newsletter that will have openers do a double-take, as it’s fast, it’s changing, and it’s showcasing real products they can purchase.
If you want to create something like this, then copy the exact formula and put your message front and center in the first frame. Should your email not load properly — especially if you make the mobile marketing mistake of not double-checking its compatibility with various devices — you will not be able to communicate your original intent.


This was the email sent for the monochrome collection. And there is no introduction to be made, as the image speaks for itself.
This GIF is impossible to ignore. It says it all without too much copy. Just two verbs show what this email needs to accomplish: “Introducing” and “Start”. That’s all you need to know as a customer.

Liberty Bottleworks

This brand is all about showing what their offer means in the GIF above. “Save 30%”. On what? What does that even mean?
After all of the items are gone from the frame, the little arrow flashing under the bottle tells you everything you need to know.

One Last Tip

GIFs may be fun and quirky and may be able to liven up your email marketing campaigns. However, this doesn’t mean that using a template that matches them is beneficial for all of the segments of your audience.
Accessibility is a crucial factor when it comes to creating digital marketing materials. A great rule of thumb would be to create a super-relevant alt text that will give a clear description of the GIF. That way, people with visual impairment will still be able to enjoy your content through their screen readers.
Another thing you should take into account is flashing images. Flashing content can trigger seizures, so make sure to keep it at a three-times-per-second change and not use too much contrast to minimize the chances.
Finally, consult IAAP’s page or the BBC’s handy guide before creating your GIF email marketing campaign.

The Takeaway

GIFs show people — especially younger age groups — a great way to communicate with one another and showcase their reactions from afar.
Using GIFs un email will allow you to do the same thing by creating a meaningful emotional response and enabling you to bond with your customers in a more authentic, effortless way.
And as you already know, the more your marketing message resonates, the better it converts.

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  • Heath Weaver

    Managing Director, Principal

    Heath Weaver has almost two decades of eCommerce digital marketing experience. He has run multiple agencies, headed up Search Engine Marketing for the consumer electronics division of Sony, and served as a Vice President at Trilogy Software. He enjoys working day-to-day with clients to level up their retention marketing game.

  • Xiaohui "X" Wang

    Founder, Principal

    Xiaohui "X" Wang is a veteran of the email marketing industry. In the last decade, he has led the strategic and tactic retention marketing efforts for over 300 ecommerce brands ranging from small mom & pops to IR500 retailers. He's passionate about all things eCommerce, email, and SMS.