Say It With a GIF


Tami Urban, Marketing Strategist

Author Bio

Tami brings years of hands-on experience driving revenue for her clients as an email marketing strategist. This experience includes working with hundreds of B2B and B2C clients in a range of industries. She guides her clients to see success in their email and social marketing efforts as well as working with her clients on split testing, creative optimization, segmentation, engagement and overall best practices. For fun, you can find Tami cooking, enjoying a good bottle of wine, or checking out a show at the local theater.

As marketers, we’re challenged daily with how to provide more engaging content and promotions in our emails. We’re forever searching for new ways to capture the attention of our subscribers with creative calls to action. Animated GIFs are a great way to try something new. Think of them as short, digestible, graphic stories that can have an emotional impact on the reader while showcasing the main point of your marketing message.

But GIF usage stalled due to support issues with email clients. Support has drastically improved, however, and to no one’s surprise, animated GIFs definitely made a comeback at the end of 2017. About 20% of all holiday emails in my inbox were animated – and with good reason. They’re just so fun and eye-catching!

While Outlook still drags behind in its 2007, 2010 and 2013 versions, you can expect the majority of your subscribers to be able to see them these days. For now, these versions of Outlook display only the first frame. To overcome this, many email designers ensure that any vital information, such as the call to action, offer, or headline, is included in that first frame.

If you’re going to use them, though, really make them count. Remember when emojis were all the rage and your inbox was littered with tons of little icons? Similarly, it’s best to animate with discretion. From a marketing point of view, one or two tastefully placed GIFs can add interest and act as a call to action, prompting click-through. If used the right way, they can truly surprise and delight your subscribers. But use them too aggressively, and subscribers may stop paying attention to them altogether.

A Few Things to Consider

Flash Rate

Watch both flash rate and the transition time between image frames to ensure there’s enough time to register the information. Even just a bit of movement is often all it takes to surprise the reader and get them to click through to your landing page.

File Size

Less is more. Keep it small and condensed – with a total email file size around 40KB. A subtle animation can add just enough life to your emails in a tasteful, non-disruptive manner. Here’s a tool to help slim down your GIFs:

Let’s check out a few examples. You can use GIFs to:

Animate your call to action buttons.


Highlight extended sales.

Spice up your cart recovery messages.

Pretty Vulgar

Set the mood.

Mr. Porter

Showcase the entire line of a product.


Add flair to a holiday message.


Launch your new catalog.

Rules of Cool

Highlight alternative gift-giving options.


Draw attention to your call to action.


Create clarity without overshadowing the product.

Cranky Jacket

Highlight new arrivals and seasonal favorites.

Neiman Marcus

Support a sense of urgency.

Tick Tock

The bottom line? It’s worth a try. GIFs can be a valuable tool for helping you stand out among the hundreds of emails in your subscribers’ inbox. They can add eye candy, highlight your products or simply give your call to action a boost. It’s a fun, creative option for the modern-day email marketer.

For even more technical recommendations on using animated GIFs, check out Litmus’s “A Guide to Animated GIFs in Email.”


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