How animated GIFs can bring your mailings to life

GIFs are everywhere. They have taken over our social media conversations. You don’t have to look too hard to spot a GIF that perfectly expresses your emotion or feeling. So why not use them in your communication with customers more often?

GIFs are moving pictures, and if there is anything that attracts attention, it’s moving stuff. In the pursuit of engagement, animated GIFs can be the ideal trigger to make people read or interact with your mailing.

Give GIFs a chance

They have been around long before services like GIPHY or memes made them popular and mainstream. The original GIF specification was introduced in 1987, mostly used for simple things like a waving flag or blinking arrows. But with the rise of blogs and social media GIFs became mainstream again.

So, we now know they are cool and can attract attention. But how can you use them to get your message across? Because you can’t just add a GIF in your mailing and pretend you are the coolest kid on the block. Here are a few things to consider...

Make them valuable

A GIF should reinforce the message you are sending. Otherwise, it might just be distracting for the reader. Make sure it is linked to the message you want to send and matches with your brand style.
These three situations illustrate how smart use of GIFs can support your message:

  1. Put the focus on the main message by creating an animation around it. Do you have a CTA you really want people to click on? Why not make it jump up and down or blink?
  2. Draw attention to a limited promotion with a countdown timer as the main image. People will sense the urgency because time is ticking by! Want one? You can find multiple tools to create them online, ready to use. 
  3. Explain the steps of an action you want people to take. Make a short animation of what they need to do, rather than explain it in a ‘dry’ text. It’s like an explainer video, right in your mailbox.

Don’t overdo it

Okay, we know GIFs grab people’s attention, but there is also something like overkill. Your whole mailing screams for attention, the message will get lost, and the reader will leave without further ado. Keep your animations subtle and use them sparsely. Once the element of surprise has worn away, subscribers will lose interest.

What if it fails?

Sadly, not every email client supports GIFs in mailings. If your reader opens the mail in Outlook, only the first frame will display. Want everyone to get the most optimal experience? Make sure the first frame contains all the necessary information the user needs.

Time vs. effort

A lot of time and effort goes into conceiving and creating the perfect GIF. A static image is much faster to create and implement than a moving one. Sometimes, your deadline is short and you need to act fast. Which doesn’t make GIFs the right solution for those moments. Start experimenting with campaigns that have a longer lifecycle like birthday or welcome flows. These will run during longer periods, giving you better insights in what works and what doesn’t. Or why not try an A/B test to see if this approach is right for you?

Okay, I’m convinced. Now what?

You want to start using animated GIFs to enhance your emails. Good for you! Follow these steps and you’ll discover how easy it is to start using them.

  1. Think about what part of your mailing you want to animate. Does it add enough value? If not, just keep the animation for a later time.
  2. Draw out the concept and create the animated GIF. Don’t have the skills? Have your designer create it – they know how to get things done. Remember that the first frame should include the most important information, because of Outlook’s restrictions. Be sure to keep the file size to a minimum, as this will affect the loading time of the mailing.
  3. Simply add the GIF to your html, just like you would do with any other image.
  4. Test your mail thoroughly, to make sure everything displays correctly.
  5. Hit that sent button and wait for those responses to roll in.
  6. Evaluate if your mailing worked. See if contacts interacted the way you intended them to. If it worked, find ways to use the same technique in a different and creative way. But remember: don’t overdo it, just so people don’t grow tired of it.


Animated GIFs can be an excellent way to make to core message of your emails stronger. They can convince the recipients of your email to take action and often trigger the general response. But keep in mind that overdoing it can cause irritation with your recipients and eventually limit the success of your emails.

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Posted on
Jan 10, 2020