Animated GIFs in Email Newsletters, the ultimate how to guide

| Content Marketing

With 12 best practice examples to inspire your animated GIF Email Newsletter campaigns.

Animated GIFs in Email Newsletters and Marketing

Animated GIFs are just for the kidz, right?

Wrong! 2017 is the year that animated GIFs turn 30, and are predicted to be one of the biggest trends in email marketing in 2017. They are also a key medium for adding interactive elements to email newsletters.

According to Google Trends the popularity of animated GIFs has been growing rapidly over the last 5 years;

Google Trends GIFs in Email Newsletters and Marketing

Their use by digital marketers has increased massively in recent years too, and it’s not hard to see why. Creating animated GIFs is becoming ever more accessible as more and more tools become available. The results are also starting to speak for themselves as more case studies appear. Proving the positive effects of using animated GIFs in email newsletters and marketing.

Why use GIFs in email marketing?

We live in an attention economy. People want relevance, and they want to see and understand that relevance in as short a time possible. As marketers we need to capture that attention and guide it to engagement. Animated GIFs are a great way to do that.

There is no doubt that video is more of a ‘complete’ medium for getting across detailed concepts and information. But, it is very expensive to create, and you have to really grab the viewer in the first 10 seconds or they will drop off.

Video is also currently only supported by 58% of email clients. So unless the reader clicks, you’ve pretty much got a 1 in 2 chance of getting across more information than an image.

GIFs are not just a replacement for video in email though. In this attention economy, animated GIFs bring their own unique value and opportunities that sometimes video just can’t.

The results speak for themselves…

In an A/B test using static image VS animated GIF, Bluefly saw a 5% increase in click rate, and a 12% increase in dollars spent by customers who saw the animated GIF version.

Even more impressive still, in a campaign to launch the Dell XPS 12 ultrabook, Dell saw a 42% increase in click rate and a 109% increase in revenue compared to other email campaigns.

I think animated GIFs are a good way for people to communicate what their main story is very quickly, people are visual learners. Sierk, Dell

How best to use animated GIFs in email newsletters

First things first…

Just because animated GIFs have brought email marketers results, doesn’t mean you should just start adding them to your newsletters willy nilly and hope to see the same.

Like any content you add to an email newsletter you need to know why you are adding it, and what value it will bring to the reader. There needs to a purpose for adding an animated GIF. An advantage of using it over another content format.

The best approach to getting this right starts with understanding your readers. Balancing what they want, with what you want from them. You can start by asking yourself these questions;

  • Why are my readers opening this email?
  • What are my readers interested in, what’s relevant to them?
  • The one key thing I want my readers to get from this email?
  • The one key thing I want to get from my readers with this email?

Then think about if an animated GIF is appropriate. How you could use it to enhance the reader’s experience? Will using a GIF increase the probability of you getting your one key thing?

Once you have the answer to those, here’s some inspiration and best practices to get you started.

Capturing attention

One of the major advantages of using animated GIFs is how successful they are at capturing the reader’s attention. They are great if you want to highlight something or draw a person’s eye. 

But be careful, you can get it wrong;


It certainly grabs your attention, but it actually hurts your eyes!

Think about what it is you are wanting to draw the person’s attention to. Then how you could use an animated GIF to do it.

Here is a great example from American Apparel. It grabs your attention, and highlights the new colour range;


Bring products to life

Photojojo have a great example here. Using an animated GIF to show off two of their new products and how they work;


Relevant product placement

Nest have done a fantastic job with this. They have appealed to their target market by including them in the demo of the product and its benefits. All in one clever GIF;


Explaining complex concepts

This is normally reserved for video. However Litmus have done a great job of getting across the benefits of a complicated product with this animated GIF;


Call to actions

Probably one of the most used purposes for animated GIFs in email. Used well it can capture people’s attention and draw their eye to the call to action.
Eloquently demonstrated by Ann Taylor Loft with this click to unwrap gift;


Creating urgency

Got a flash sale or promotion on? This example from Kohls is a great use of an animated GIF to create urgency;


Emotional Impact

Great marketing inspires emotion deep within us. As Simon Sinek said, “people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it”. People buy with emotions, and animated GIFs are a great way to tap into that emotion. As seen here by Mr Porter;


Logo Slideshow

Perfect if you are running a conference and want to give some airtime to the key sponsors. Consider following Marketing United’s lead with their logo slideshow in the footer;



Generally making things more awesome by using an animated GIF instead of just a static image. Here Nike bring the newsletter to life by turning this emotive image into an animated GIF;



It’s what GIFs really became famous for, and it certainly has it’s time and place.

Done well animated GIFs can add real personality and humour to your email newsletters. In this example Bonobos bring some humour in both copy and the animation to sell the products benefits;



All content is communication. But, as this example from Tiffany shows, you can animate text to tell even more of a story;


How to guides

Helping readers get to grasps with new features is really easy with animated GIFs. It also saves you having to create a lengthy video. We use these a lot in our email communication with customers at Publicate. Like this example for how to search for images and GIFs from your workspace;


Key best practices to bare in mind…

When using animated GIFs in email there are a few things to keep in mind;

  • Make sure the first frame of the GIF looks good and is relevant. This will keep things looking goof in the few email clients that don’t support GIF. Like Outlook 2007-2013 (sigh).
  • Use animation on GIFs sparingly and in a relevant way, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
  • Keep an eye on the file size, ideally under 1MB per image, but it’s OK if it is more. You can adjust the file size in tools like Ezgif, Gifgifs and Gifmaker.
  • Use animated GIFs sparingly, if they are included in all of your campaigns they will lose their impact. Make it relevant.
  • Don’t use too many in one email newsletter. Sometimes it is appropriate, like when explaining how to use a new feature. But beware of diluting focus by drawing attention to too many places.

Creating and finding animated GIFs

Creating animated GIFs best practices rightly deserves it’s own post. For now though, here is a roundup of the best tools I’ve found for creating GIFs. From free to paid and pro to novice, they are all here, with helpful insight to each one.

Animated GIF Tool Roundup 

In Summary

As with everything in marketing, the key is to do it well. By that, I mean make it relevant and meaningful. Animated GIFs should be used to build on your message with well thought out and relevant animation.

  • Start with understanding your readers and what you are wanting to get out of using animated GIFs.
  • The list of examples in this post will set you up with some great inspiration for using animated GIFs. Really the possibilities are endless
  • Keep in mind the best practices of first frame counts, less is more and keep an eye on file size.
  • Then get creating and adding to your email newsletters

Done well, animated GIFs offer an engaging medium that you can use to boost your email newsletters performance and delight your readers.

Got some examples to share? Share them in the comments…

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