How to use GIFs and memes successfully in online marketing

A funny quote turns into a worldwide running gag on the Internet or a short animation from the favorite series replaces the written answer to the last WhatsApp message. 

Phone Texting Two Mobile Phones Mobile Text Hands

Memes and GIFs have become an indispensable part of the Internet and have long since become an integral part of the way we communicate online. 

No wonder that web phenomena are therefore discovered and used by companies for their digital communication strategy. The informal and humorous nature of GIFs and memes makes them a primary marketing tool to reach the Internet-savvy target audience.

In today’s blog post, we’ll show you precisely what memes and gifs are about and how to successfully integrate the popular content bits into your online marketing strategy.

What is a GIF?

A GIF, short for Graphics Interchange Format, is a compressed image format for images on the Web. The most common form is the juxtaposition of multiple images in a GIF, giving the impression of animation. While GIFs were the only way to bring moving images to the Internet at the beginning, they were soon overtaken by video as the World Wide Web developed. In recent years, however, the short animations have been rediscovered for online communication. Whether Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or WhatsApp – for most users, the GIF function is now just as important as the classic emojis. 

Through animation, GIFs immediately attract attention and are more attractive to the eye than a static image. At the same time, they are much easier and faster to consume than just videos, with continuous loop playback just a few seconds long. Also, GIFs are without sound – so there is no danger when scrolling unwanted noise to the environment. Probably the most important page to find and create GIFs

What is a meme?

The term memes were introduced in 1976 by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Dawkin argues that “virality” refers not only to the spread of infectious diseases but also to sociocultural phenomena. A meme in this sense is a cultural idea or trend that spreads like wildfire in a cultural system. Internet memes are organically evolving from the web community and can spread at such a rate that they are often world-famous after just a few days.

Unlike GIFs, memes are not a particular media format but can take on a wide variety of forms, from the classic “image macro,” that is an image with text, to individual quotations, to special alienations of grammar and spelling. 

They refer to events of current events, citing scenes from pop culture or describe certain everyday situations. All in a humorous and often satirical way. As fast as a meme can develop, it can disappear again. While some formats do not lose their effect in the online community even after years, other Memes fall into oblivion after a few days. Familiar to all memes, however, is that they require a certain amount of shared knowledge to understand them. They are, so to speak, an inside joke,

Memes in online marketing prove humor, trend awareness and proximity to the target group

This is precisely what makes up most of the charm of the Web phenomenon for business: Understanding a meme indicates belonging to a group that shares a particular zeitgeist. Therefore, memes offer a high potential for brand identification. Companies that prove humor with Memes show that they speak the language of their target group. That creates closeness and sympathy. At the same time, memes usually originate from currently popular or heavily discussed topics on the Internet. Proper use of memes is a testament to trends. The smarter and popular the meme, the higher the chances that it will be viral on social media.

For marketing to succeed with Memes, it’s essential to keep a few basic points in mind. The first success factor is the extremely short half-life of many memes. What has worked well in the world of the Internet last week may be outdated today. So, to save your mind, you should check carefully whether the meme is still up to date on social media – for example, via Twitter or Google Trends. 

Closely related to this is the actual design of the meme. Check out here too much rather than too little, whether the meme was understood correctly. In modifying the meme itself, it is crucial to be original and not to be advertised. The main goal should be to entertain – with a fitting but subtle reference to your own brand.

Last but not least, not only does the company need to use the format correctly, but the target audience also needs to understand the meme. Memes are mostly traceable to a specific niche or online subculture. Therefore, take a close look at what the interests and click preferences of your target group are and which formats are particularly popular with them.

GIFs help to emotionalize and illustrate

Unlike memes, the impact of GIFs is less dependent on the rapid change in Internet culture. They are less time-limited and more like a kind of extended emoji. GIFs are therefore particularly well suited to mini-storytelling in online marketing. 

Whether mini-clips from film and television or just a funny facial expression – the short animations bring in a few seconds a certain feeling to the point. This makes it easy to emotionalize blogs and posts. Especially for millennials, GIFs of a study are essential to communicate on the Internet. Two-thirds of 18-34 year-olds said that GIFs express their feelings better than words. GIFs work well with people and – how else should it be on the Internet – dogs, and cats. 

However, GIFs in online marketing do not always have to have fun or entertaining function. The mini-animations are perfect for showing how a new product works, to animate data over time, to summarize tutorials step-by-step, or to visualize click paths for a new website feature.

A prime example of this practical use of GIFs is a campaign by Dell in 2014. To launch the new Dell XPS 12 Convertible Ultrabook – a mix of laptop and tablet, the company was looking for ways to make the then-new product understandable in an e-mail campaign showcase. The Solution: A GIF animation showing the transformation of the Ultrabook into a tablet. Impact of the campaign was examined in a case study by The result shows the success of the GIF-supported campaign compared to past benchmarks. The mailing campaign saw the tech company achieve a 42% higher click-through rate, a 103% higher conversion rate, and a 109% increase in sales.

Memes and GIFs are easily created and sharply divisible

Some benefits share both web phenomena equally. Memes and GIFs are generated in just a few clicks. The production costs are thus significantly lower than with high-resolution campaign photos or even videos. Also, memes and GIFs are the most important content shared on social media, leaked and linked to friends. They provide the opportunity to reach a large number of users and become part of a social conversation.

Necessary: Memes and GIFs often live on references to popular culture, citing well-known films, series or music. Therefore, the copyright of the material used should always be checked briefly before use. So you stay on the safe side with copyright infringement.


Even though large companies, in particular, are increasingly focusing on memes and GIFs in online marketing, they still tend to remain a rarity in the content marketing mix. This makes them even more of a primary means of communication that attracts attention from customers.

Properly used, memes can be used to prove humor and trend awareness and to make your content more exciting and emotional through GIFs. This helps them to reach the users on a more personal level, creating a likable brand image and thus strengthening the bond with the company. At the same time, the engagement factor and the shares in the social media increase through the entertainment factor. So it pays off to look beyond traditional online marketing and relax the digital corporate communications with GIFs and memes.

Categories: Digital Marketing, E-commerce, Marketing

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