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How brands are innovating gifs in social media marketing campaigns

The Drum Social is a weekly column from The Drum’s social media executive Amy Houston covering the latest social media trends, strategies and insights. Follow Amy @AmyCLHouston and join in the conversation #TheDrumSocial

What’s the secret to a successful gif campaign on social media?

The Drum’s social media executive Amy Houston looks to top brands to assess how they can best use gifs and looping videos to increase awareness, market their products and ultimately have a bit of fun in the meantime.

The humble gif (Graphics Interchange Format) was first developed by computer scientists back in ’87, and similar to the meme it has come a long way since then.

Gifs are used to add some spice to WhatsApp chats or tweets when they are feeling a little lackluster, but there is so much more to these funny short clips than meets the eye. They really are the gif-t that keeps on giving... sorry, I had to.

Last week Spotify teamed up with Giphy (the world’s largest gif portal) in a new partnership that enables users to discover music from artists including Nicki Minaj, Doja Cat and Post Malone through gifs. The unique partnership has excited a community of music fans online who want to better connect with each other, and their favorite artist, while also making way for new creative ways of communication on social media. Giphy says it is “serving 10+ billion pieces” of “content” to a daily user reach of 700+ million people to “help them express themselves and make their everyday conversations more entertaining”.

So how can brands weave the humble gif into social strategies?

Video strategies have seen a surge in popularity in recent years due to the likes of TikTok and Instagram Reels. Showing personality is pivotal for brands looking to form an engaged audience, and many have taken to creating unique gifs and looping videos to convey their ethos and products, and spark conversations.

Mental health charity Calm got creative with looping videos on Instagram to promote wellness and meditation, which during the pandemic was a much-needed form of escapism. Tapping into this and reacting to its audience needs has proven to be an effective tactic.

Using gifs and video to highlight products on social media can feel less like a conventional ad, which consumers may respond better to. Trying too hard to replicate an advertising asset or prioritizing the sales messaging above the quality of the creative will not work, and “the main focus should be on creating content that will be enjoyed by the audience,” Simon Friend, client lead at the7stars, tells me about the creative process. At the end of the day, it isn’t about “hijacking the format to shove a brand or product in people’s faces”.

Starbucks used looping videos and gifs in its 2020 festive holiday season campaign, relying on a mixture on animated photographs and illustrations to highlight limited-edition flavors. Consumers often don’t have the time or inclination to scroll through menus, so this is a brilliant way of hyping up products effectively.

Gifs provide brands with a cost-effective way to show a 360° view of products, but with any strategy it’s imperative to keep your customers’ needs at the forefront and “be authentic to your audience,” says Adam Harris, global head, brand partnership studio at Twitch. “Learn the language of the community you’re engaging with and thrive on your interactions with them.”

Storytelling is an integral part of marketing, and gifs can be employed to do just that. Using visual language allows a brand’s voice to shine in a way that text on a page might not.

A great example of this is the way that Google uses gifs on Instagram to promote various events. Adhering to its style guide, the assets are made with the instantly recognizable bold brand colorways. Brand identity across all communication channels is important and gifs should be no different – social media moves quickly, and brands need to give their audience a reason to stop scrolling.

One of the best aspects of social media is the opportunity it provides us to be creative. Gifs and looping videos enable brands to communicate with their audience in a more conversational and fun way. Standing out from the crowd, being consistent and showing products in a modern way are all factors brands need to consider in their social strategy – and gifs can be an excellent way to encompass that.

Do you have a favorite brand campaign that has used gifs? Join in the conversation on social using #TheDrumSocial

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