GIFs: Making Old School New Again
NASA may not be the first brand that comes to mind when thinking of memorable marketing campaigns, but there’s no question the government agency has always been on the cutting edge of technology. When your job is to explore space and discover all there is to know about the universe, you have to be. The NASA vision statement is, “To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind.” So, what’s NASA been doing lately? Making GIFs.
NASA shocked and thrilled social media users when it revealed a new Giphy account. The account features nearly 600 GIFs and counting with content ranging from astronauts doing flips in space to animations of planets orbiting the sun. You can watch GIFs of robotic arms repairing equipment in space and the learn about the new landing technique for the Mars Rover.
On the surface, NASA’s sudden love of GIFs may be seen as simply hopping on the latest social media trend, but the GIFs actually have a far more strategic purpose. Since its inception, NASA has invested in public education. This investment allows the agency to ensure that what it discovers can, as its vision statement declares, “benefit all humankind.” Effectively educating a new generation of people raised on smartphones and tablets requires a new approach. Words alone won’t draw them in. You need to speak with visual content — content like GIFs.
Use visual content to connect with your audience
Engaging and emotional images are a powerful way to connect with your audience — especially if you are targeting a younger, more internet-savvy group.
“GIFs appeal to younger audiences because they are perfect cuts of video. Short, digestible clips,” designer Hayden Davis says. “People like something funny and relatable and often GIFs perfectly express how we feel.”
Hayden began making GIFs in college and now works as an in-house designer for Tattly. His playful, bright design style has lead to his work being featured on Behance and Creative Mornings. He believes GIFs enhance the customer experience by making customers feel like a brand relates to them on a personal level.
“Visuals like emoji are great, but are often too simple and straightforward,” Hayden says. “A GIF presents a situation that can be applied to a variety of experiences.”
NASA isn’t the only organization investing in GIFs. Brands like Bāndo, Taco Bell, Doritos, and even The Home Depot are using GIFs in their social media strategies.
GIFs have a flexibility that’s incredibly important for brands. Once a GIF is created, it can be reused by the brand and users alike over and over across platforms and channels. These creative channels give their audience a way to express themselves when words just aren’t enough.
Younger audiences who have grown up in the digital media culture have a natural expectation of rich, engaging digital content. GIFs are incredibly entertaining, while at the same time engaging.
Take for example Playstation’s tactic of partnering with popular YouTube stars to create GIFs, which further increases the effectiveness of the visual strategy. The Playstation Giphy account also gives fans access to GIFs made up of curated moments (both wins and fails) from gaming.
Take your visual content to the next level
Many GIFs look fairly rushed and basic. This amateur feel is appropriate at times. Yet, when a brand is putting their name on a GIF they should consider the overall level of professionalism that goes into the final product. Without focus on innovation and craftsmanship, it’s just another amateur GIF.
However, when creating GIFs, there’s no need to be overly ambitious. Subtlety can be groundbreaking in and of itself. Creating something eye catching can mean doing something small or evoking an emotion, especially when it comes to smaller visual moments found in GIFs.
Hayden’s best tip for creating GIFs is to focus on timing. “Remember that a GIF loops for infinity. You have to make something seamlessly turn an ending into a beginning, so the timing has to be right. Something too slow can look overworked. Something too quick can look unnatural.”
Communicate your message and have fun
Capturing your audience’s attention with GIFs and other visual media allows you to communicate to your audience in a way that is meaningful and emotional. It grabs their attention and is likely to spread your brand message more quickly than traditional written content.
Hayden puts it this way, “The beauty of a GIF is that it repeats. It loops, forever. You want something that is not only fun to watch once, or even twice, but infinitely.”