Make your emails “POP” with GIF Animation

 Make your emails “POP” with GIF Animation

One of the most common questions asked of your creative team is: “How can we make our emails stand out from the rest of the crowd?” One trend that is gaining popularity with many email marketers is the use of animation. Over the last few years, the significance of a GIF (graphics interchange format) has gone from laughable Internet relic to a prolific cultural art form. Including an animation in an email, whether it is subtle or the main feature, is a great way to get a viewer’s attention. A subtle animation is also a great way to draw the reader’s eye to a specific area in the email, such as a call-to-action button or a special promotion.

Animated gifs and cinema graphs (still photographs in which a minor and repeated movement occurs, usually published in an animated gif format), may look great, but can they improve subscriber engagement?

It has been shown that 72% of clients who’ve utilized animated gif’s or cinema graphs experience higher transaction-to-click rates.

The most important rule to remember when using animations is to make sure they enhance the message instead of overshadowing it. For designers, we recommend keeping your timeframe in mind as well; most emails are only briefly looked at, so you don’t want to invest an exorbitant amount of time creating an animation. Think about what types of messaging you send and where animation could most effectively be used. It has to be more than a gimmick – you want it to be a surprising yet cohesive part of your message. A well-placed animation can be the spark you need to attract subscribers’ attention to your email and keep them engaging with your future communications.

It could be something as simple as an animated message or as complicated as Calvin & Hobbes dancing.


GIFs have emerged in a number of unlikely places, from Internet memes to online journalism.  When it comes to promotional email marketing, GIFs make a lot of sense. They render across multiple email clients, they’re simple to produce and they make important messaging and images pop. When deciding whether or not to include a GIF in your marketing communication, ask yourself what purpose the animation is serving and what value it will give to your subscriber.

Here are a few worthwhile benefits that animation can provide in an email:

Drawing the eye to important details.

A simple animation in the banner or top navigation of the email is a great way to catch the attention of your subscriber.   Piperlime highlights their ‘free shipping and free return policy’ with a basic animated text banner just above the top navigation. Williams Sonoma uses the classic flipping calendar to create a sense of urgency, and Kohl’s makes their header area pop with an adorable Easter bunny that hops across it’s ‘free shipping’ banner.

Showing your audience you’re a fun, creative brand.

Despite all the best practices we set out for email design, there are always a few rebels who break the rules and get away with it. Best practices are a set of standards that should be adjusted based on the most important consideration of any brand: their audience. In the case of Urban Outfitters, a young, tech-savvy following will not only appreciate a more artistic GIF animation, but they are also likely to be using an email client that can easily render it.

Showcasing multiple products or ideas.

A very practical use of the animated GIF is to optimize the limited space available in the primary message of the email by animating the images. Osh Kosh B’Gosh employs this technique to feature three kids’ tees without crowding the limited space above the fold.

In communications that have a lot of information to relay in a small space, like the Verizon Wireless monthly newsletter, animating three frames in the hero allows you to build a cohesive storyline. Each frame is given the breathing room to develop that piece of the story without overwhelming the reader with large blocks of copy.

These animations are not as easy to create as it might seem. Google Images has a vast library of animations of all types. There are, also, many animation software products out there, but I tend to leave it to the professionals.

Richard Gould – Design Administration

Gould Design, Inc.

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