GIF Me A Break: Are these predecessors to emojis here to stay?

Simply put: Yes.

With social media, mobile messaging and digital communication becoming so prevalent in our daily lives, people are always looking for better ways to express themselves. Enter the GIF–officially pronounced “gift” minus the “t”––a sequence of still images strung together to create an animation. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, GIFs are worth 10,000. While this simple file format has been around for more than a decade, there’s been a recent surge in it’s popularity, likely because GIFs more easily get to the point: GIFs have enhanced the way we communicate digitally with looping fragments of video, facial expressions, and other actions to help convey content beyond mere text.

In a recent TechCrunch interview with founder of GIF company Riffsy, David McIntosh referred to GIFs as a "visual expression language," saying, "People love sharing GIFs on mobile because they’re a fast, fun way of communicating.” 

Simply put, GIFs are more than just moving images, they’ve become part of our digital speech.

Wait... so GIFs are like a language? Mind blown:



Need evidence? Just go to any mobile marketplace and look at how many different GIF keyboard apps are available (we even put a few in the hockey emoji keyboard we made for client Bauer Hockey). Even the widely used chat service Slack has partnered with the GIF company Giphy for integrated GIF chat functionality.


GIFs are the predecessor to emoticons. Emoticons are a language of iconography used to convey emotions and GIFs serve a similar function. We often pair GIFs with content in order to enhance or enforce a message. But GIFs are able to express much more than static icons, and in many cases GIFs can become full-fledged content.


Many companies now are incorporating GIFs into their marketing and branding communication strategies. GIFs are valuable to brands because they can convey much more than a static image but are much less of a commitment than video content. If used effectively, GIFs are a very efficient way to market content. It’s a great way for brands to add personality, enhance messages, communicate on social media, and create shareable visuals.


Starbucks launched a GIF campaign enticing audiences to share their trippy and subliminal animations featuring Frappuccinos. While it may not be the most rewarding content, it presents the product in a way that is quick, attention grabbing, tailored for sharing on web and mobile channels.  

starbucks gif


Nike has also entered the GIF game in a similar fashion with coloful product features but also some simplistic work out tutorials featured on Behance. 

Nike Gif

As far as more content heavy GIFs, take a look at General Electric’s tumblr page posts or Mashable’s Shark week synopsis. These are great examples of how brands can use a GIFs to create fun engaging content without the need for a video:

GE Gif


GIFs are used by brands, bloggers, socio-political campaigns, movie promotions, and even artists, so it’s safe to say GIFs are here to stay. There's something to be said about their ability to bridge the gap between image and video. Being immediate and digestible makes a perfect combination for web communication. As purveyors of digital content, GIFs are something that we should recognize as a serious medium to consider in content marketing and strategy.