How to use GIFs and memes in online marketing successfully

One funny quote is going to be the world running-gag in the internet or a short animation from the favorite series replace the massage in WhatsApp. Memes and GIFs have become an integral part of the internet and has become a fixture in the way how we communicate online. No wonder that these 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 an original marketing tool to reach the internet affine target group.

In today’s blog post, we’ll show you exactly 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 many images in a gif, which gives an impression of an animation. In the beginning GIFs were the only way to bring moving images to the Internet, but 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. The animation creates instant GIFs and is more interesting to the eye than a static image. In continuous loop much easier and faster than videos to consume. In addition, GIFs come out without sound – so there is no danger when scrolling, unintentionally sound to the environment. Finding and creating GIFs is



What is a meme?

The term memes was introduced in 1976 by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Dawkin’s argument is 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 special media format, but can take on a wide variety of forms, from the classic „image macro“, that is image with text, to individual quotations, to special alienations of grammar and spelling. They refer to events of current affairs, cite 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. Common 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 shared by the worldwide internet community.


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

This is exactly 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 in the internet. Proper use of memes is a testament to trends. The more clever and up-to-date the meme, the higher the chances that it will be viral on the social media.



For marketing to succeed with Memes, it’s important 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 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 the company needs 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 closer 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. 2/3 of 18-34 year-olds said that GIFs can express their feelings better than words. GIFs work well with people and – how else should it be on the internet – dogs and cats. [1]



However, GIFs in online marketing do not always have to have a fun or entertaining function. The mini-animations are perfect to show 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 new product understandable in an e-mail campaign showcase. The Solution: A GIF animation showing the transformation of the Ultrabook into a tablet. The impact of the campaign was examined in a case study by [2]. The result shows the success of the GIF-supported campaign compared to past benchmarks: The mailing campaign enabled the tech company to 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 heavily divisible

Some benefits share both web phenomena equally. Memes and GIFs are created in just a few clicks. The production costs are significantly lower than with high-resolution campaign photos or even videos. In addition, memes and GIFs are the most popular content shared on social media, leaked and linked to friends. [3] They provide the opportunity to reach a large amount of users and become part of a social conversation.

Important: Memes and GIFs often live on references to popular culture, citing well-known films, series or music. Therefore, the copyright of the material should always be checked briefly before use. So you commit no 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 an original 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 interesting and emotional through GIFs. This helps them to reach the users on a more personal level, creating a likeable 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 classic online marketing and to loosen the digital corporate communications with GIFs and memes.







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