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Using GIFs In Email Marketing to Surprise & Delight

Using GIFs In Email Marketing to Surprise & Delight

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GIFs are a staple of Twitter and Slack, and sometimes they convey your message JUST RIGHT in a way that no words or static image can.



So if animation works in these channels… should you consider incorporating these into your email marketing programs?

The Case for Using GIFs In Email Marketing

It’s harder than ever to stand out in a person’s inbox. Adding animation could be just the thing you need to infuse some “surprise and delight” and catch someone’s eye.

Hard data on how GIFs impact performance is really limited, but here’s what brands have seen with their experiments:

  • Dressed Up! saw a 26% higher CTR when A/B testing a GIF against a static video screenshot.
  • BlueFly saw a 12% increase in revenue from emails that included an animated GIF.
  • Dell observed a 42% increase in click through rate and a 109% increase in revenue over quarterly email marketing benchmarks (which is not a super meaningful way to test something, but hey, it’s a data point.)

So what animations could you add to get readers to do a double take and engage with your message?

There’s definitely a right and a wrong way to leverage GIFs in emails. But rather than wax on about do’s and don’ts… let’s take a look at an example.

How Cirrus Insight Uses GIFs to Surprise & Delight

One of Sercante’s clients, Cirrus Insight, brings their A-game when it comes to GIFs.  Their very talented in-house designer comes up with incredibly fun and playful animations that we add into their Pardot email campaigns.

The first experiment was in a holiday greeting:


People loved it.

How often do you get love letters in response to email campaigns>?

The overwhelmingly positive feedback inspired a Valetine’s GIF a few months later…


CI’s designer uses Camtasia to create these, but there are a number of other platforms that can be used to design GIFs.

The next design was in honor of the Oscars…


Then came Pi Day…

I found the final product for this particularly impressive… because how the heck would you animante an envelope eating pie?!

Well, here’s how:


Rumor has it CI may have more fun planned for Cinco de Mayo and Star Wars Day too.

But the last to date, although certainly not the least, was this animation for Easter:


Lessons from CI On How to Do GIFs in Email Campaigns Right

My takeaways from Cirrus Insight’s experiments with GIFs and the positive response from clients and prospects are:

1. Keep it On Brand

Incorporating GIFs in email marketing doesn’t (or shouldn’t, rather) mean turning our business communications into a stream of The Office and cat memes. (I’m thinking of one brand who does this, but they shall not be named.)

Cirrus Insight keeps its GIFs consistent with corporate brand guidelines, with a unified design aesthetic across all of their animated assets.

2. Less is More

CI uses simple, clean designs that complement – and don’t compete with – the main message.  The Christmas tree is a great example of this.  The twinkle of the ornaments adds just a little something extra, without becoming a distraction.

3. Make it FUN!

CI’s GIFs are playful and lighthearted.  Their ability to inject humor and personality strengthens and reinforces their brand.  It’s a great opportunity they’ve seized to seem human and more approachable.

4. Leverage Them for “How Tos”

In addition to the examples shared above, CI is also using GIFs to showcase how to navigate their product:

Image result for cirrus insight gif

These short animations tell a much quicker and more imapctful story than a static image or video could.

5. Be Aware of Technical Limitations

Pardot makes it easy to add these to emails.  Just import them like you would any other image file. Not every email client supports GIFs, though.  I’ll give you one guess which platform chews them up and spits them out…

…yep Outlook, EVERY TIME.

Crushing our hopes and dreams as email marketers.

Outlook 2007, 2010, and 2013 won’t show the animation in your GIF, but they will show the first frame (after the images in the email are loaded.)  To dance with this constraint, the best practice is to ensure that your call to action is included elsewhere on the page or that the first frame includes the main CTA.

6. Keep File Sizes Reasonable

Massive files sizes and long download times are a great way to a) test the patience of your readers, and b) find yourself in the spam folder. Best practice specs for your files are:

  • 480 pixels wide or less
  • Keep it to 10 frames or less
  • 400 KB or under

7. Be Mindful of Accessibility

Bright, strobing media can cause dangerous or life-threatening seizures in some readers, so keep accessible email best practices in mind.

Do you really want your “flash sale” GIF to be the culprit of something like that?  No bueno.

GIFs in Pardot Emails: What Are Your Thoughts? 

Have you experimented with GIFs in your marketing campaigns?  What have been your results?  Any war stories or tips for success?  Let’s hear it in the comments!

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  • Andrea Tarrell is the CEO & Founder of Sercante, as well as a 12X certified Salesforce MVP and Marketing Champion. Andrea caught the Salesforce bug at Dreamforce 2011 and hasn’t looked back since. She’s worked for consultancies, agencies, and client-side marketing teams over her career and is passionate about making marketing and sales teams successful with their tech stacks. Andrea lives in Atlanta with her husband Buck and her daughter, Arla. When she’s not working, she’s most likely playing with her German Shepherd Murphy, starting a new hobby that she will engage in exactly one time, or making homemade gin.

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  • We used a gif for the first time in a pardot email and noted a spike in the number of opt outs. Do you know if a security wall could have auto-opt-out recipients? OR are all opt outs intentional by each recipient? We had higher CTR but we also noted that there was email link tracking and shared email which falsely raised the pardot score of users.

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