We have all seen them used in our personal messages to our friends, in emails from everyone, and even in this blog. GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format) are digital visuals that populate every corner of our digital and social media world and we cannot hide from them. They are great way to express certain emotions, situations, and everything in between. I personally love GIFs. I use them all the time in my messages to friends to express my feelings and reactions in various situations like when I am craving pizza or obsessed with a new song. So how and when did GIFs get popular?
GIFs emerged in popularity in the late 2000’s when people started making them from existing video content. People made them as a mode of expression. These digital bite size expressions were blown up alongside the rise of Tumblr and Reddit. They were social media platforms that were perfect for GIFs. From this digital form of expression came a digital economy and business for GIFs that is funded by a ton of venture firms. One of the recent biggest digital ventures to leverage GIFs popularity is Giphy.
Giphy was founded in 2013 and their main purpose is to be a search engine of GIFs and provide the internet with a database of GIFs. The website lets the world search, discover, and share GIFs. It allows users upload and tag GIFs to make them searchable on the web and through Giphy’s native mobile apps and integrations, allow users to share in their day to day communication. This platform is so big, that Giphy is currently valued at $300 million dollars! But, how can a website of just GIFs be so valuable? How will Giphy make money once their venture capital fund is out?
Giphy is probably planning to make money by partnering with brands and media companies to make GIFs of that company’s content and people can thus share these GIFs on their social media platforms, messaging apps, and everyday digital communication platforms. Giphy wants to be a major content distribution company and let brands and companies create instantly shareable content with users. This allows a lot of opportunities for advertisers and marketers to explore new channels of digital marketing, specifically within the messaging channel.
Never before could advertisers and brands dive into people’s personal messages and market to them, but with GIFs there is now a powerful marketing opportunity for this. Giphy is now integrated in Facebook Messenger and Slack, which provides opportunity to be even more accessible to consumers. Consumers can now take these expressive and branded objects (i.e. a GIF from Stranger Things or a GIF of Starbucks announcing PSL season is back) and easily send them to their friends directly to a friend, family member, coworker, etc. with just a click of a button.
Instead of traditional advertising of a brand trying to shove a message down a user’s throat, regular people are in a way are the brand ambassadors that are directly messaging others with branded GIFs and increasing awareness for brand. On top of that, users are creating their own GIF content with brands. People are identifying with content, self endorsing it as well since they chose to send it and making content, and both people in a message chat are using it and bonding over it emotionally. GIFs are absolutely perfect for brands who want engagement with their content and gather user generated content as well. GIFs are a new avenue that you can see potential for new branded advertisements in your digital messaging platforms. People are collectively using and engaging a ton of GIFs everyday and if brands decide to utilize this, they would be tapping into something with an immense reach and sharing power.
Between the search engine aspect, the complete social integration of its content, and the huge potential for branded engagement, I believe Giphy will have no problem finding advertising and brand partners to collaborate with to market to users. In the future, it will be interesting to see how these simple forms of digital expressions that are ingrained in our digital social lives will be monetized and how businesses will utilize them to market to users in new channels they have never had access to before. Where do you think GIFs will go? Are GIFs just a digital fad that will fade out one day or will they keep on growing to continue taking over the world?