Your Email Holiday GIF Guide

Before the JPG, there was the GIF. Created in 1987, GIFs were introduced to provide a color image format, transparent backgrounds and simple animation by storing multiple images in a single file. GIFs have long been a secret weapon in email design due to the lack of support for rich media files like flash and video in email readers. Now, the old GIF is new again.

This year, New York City-based fashion photographer Jamie Beck and visual designer Kevin Burg joined forces to raise animated GIFs to a new level in a style called “cinemagraphs.” Cinemagraphs bring people and products -- like theseChristianLoubotinshoes -- to life by infusing images with realistic motions.

Cinemagraphs provide a subtle, beautiful way for brands to convey the magic in their products and inspire subscribers to take action, through purchasing products and services or even make donations. With cinemagraphs, we can bring more of the richness and sparkle of the holidays into the inbox.

Whether your brand is ready to play around with cinemagraphs or using GIFs in more time-tested ways, we have some ideas to help you get the most from your GIFs this year.

Four Great Ways to Use GIFs this Holiday Season:

It’s so important to use animation only where it makes sense. The last thing a subscriber needs is to have every email from your brand animated -- the novelty wears off  soon.To keep your campaigns fresh, be selective of stories and products that deserve to be animated.

1. Highlight a product’s unique features. Dyson’s new fan has a very different look from traditional table fans, so Bed, Bath & Beyond takes advantage of the opportunity to use animation to illustrate the distinction. The combination of a large product shot and a small vignette allows subscribers to zoom in and see the product’s features while also getting an understanding of how the fan looks in its entirety.

2. Show a collection or array of products.MichaelKors uses animation well to showcase their new collection. They were able to get four full-body model shots all into one space without clutter. It’s important to remember that your GIF can only link to one location, so use it wisely, the way REI does to display the capabilities of this multi-functional jacket.

3. Tease video content. A great way to spark interest in your video content is to animate a couple of frames of a video in the body of your email, like this example from NeimanMarcus. Or, partner with a company like  LiveClicker to create a streaming gif of your video for the inbox. If considering this technique in the B2B space, it’s important to note that in Outlook, subscribers will only be able to see the first frame of the GIF,  so plan accordingly.

4. Delight. As I said above, it’s important not to overdo it on the animation, or to chalk up any old use of animation to being for the purposes of “delight.” That said, selecting special campaigns and adding some extra pizazz can help your program stand out. When it comes to animating for delight, there are two brands that have captured “magic” particularly effectively.

Anthropologie understands that folks looking for the perfect holiday outfit need to be captivated by the perfect dress. Their cinemagraph adds rich texture and “delight” to their festive email about holiday looks.

Make-A-Wish adds more character to their featured child by animating her arm as she plays her guitar.

Have you seen or used any other great examples of animation with a purpose? If so, please share. I hope you have a happy start to your holiday emailing.

3 comments about "Your Email Holiday GIF Guide".
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  1. Cara Olson from Digital Evolution Group, November 22, 2011 at 11:44 a.m.

    Timely, one of our clients Helzberg Diamonds is actually featured on Marketing Sherpa today for the animated campaign we developed earlier this year. It generated a 288% sales increase from a personalized, animated email promotion featuring their charm jewelry collection:

  2. Wacarra Yeomans from Responsys, November 22, 2011 at 12:20 p.m.

    Thanks, Cara! What a great resource!! :) I'm definitely going to share it with my team.

  3. Kate Gowers from Adestra, November 28, 2011 at 9:13 a.m.

    Bear in mind, though, that animated gifs don't work in all email clients - Outlook 2007/2010 in particular. You should therefore ensure that the first frame of the gif is meaningful.

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