Unruly / Blog / Brands, GIFs, and Rock N’ Roll

Brands, GIFs, and Rock N’ Roll

It’s a familiar story: a gothic mansion; a chic party; bourgeois guests; a mystery unfolds; and in the end the butler did it.

‘The Mystery At The Mansion’ is a popular (perhaps overused) trope in thriller fiction, but New York City alternative rock band, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, has given it fresh life by combining it with cyberculture in their new music video.

Created for their new single, “Simple and Sure”, it’s comprised solely of GIF-inspired shots. Various party-goers are locked in a GIF-like oscillation, seemingly moving to the rhythm of the music. According to Pains lead singer, Kip Berman, the video was inspired by what he considers to be the pervasive usage of GIFs as a substitute for written journalism.

He said: “I’m taken aback at how many online outlets now reduce their content to a series of GIFs, assuming a minute-long video or a single paragraph of text to be too burdensome. We’re as much prisoners of our need for constant distraction and instant sensation as the trapped guests at the dinner party.”

Berman is expressing a notable cultural zeitgeist: the proliferation of dynamic GIFs across the web. As carriers of both information and a unique looping aesthetic, GIFs are as mesmerizing as a crackling fire, and as shareable as high school gossip. Considering this, should brands be using GIFs more?

Thanks to their simplicity, general brevity and shareability, GIFs are increasingly becoming a dominant form of visual media on the web. Audiences are gleefully devouring shorter and shorter forms of video content, from YouTube to Vine, so GIFs are the next logical step in the evolutionary process of video consumption.

It is therefore imperative for brands to understand and utilize them as part of their online content strategies. Animated GIFs’ uniqueness stems from their ability to tell a purely visual story that can last as briefly as a second, or over 3 minutes, giving them an enormous range of flexibility. One of the more mesmerizing, indeed, more beautiful aspects of GIFs is that their aesthetic appearance is nearly limitless.  A GIF can be constructed out of a well-known movie clip, a simple cartoon, or nearly any artistic design imaginable.

This allows brands to shape GIFs in a style suitable to their branding. A simple stroll through Tumblr shows the numerous ways in which brands are playfully experimenting with branded GIFs (a notable example being Coca-Cola) and one can see the myriad ways in which brands aesthetically align their GIFs to their brand image. For example, Calvin Klein designs gorgeous, crisp visuals, often in black and white, while Oreo‘s GIFs are cartooney and somewhat trippy.



A recent entrant into the Tumblr platform is Tag Heuer watches, whose pages features both static images and active GIFs. Their page acts as a more sociable alternative to their home website, allowing customers and watch aficionados to share the spectacular watch images, as well as shop around.


Everyone’s favorite Live Mas meal, Taco Bell, also recently created a Tumblr account just in time to promote their new breakfast menu. Many of their GIFs playfully show a new way to think about breakfast.

                                                 You can try the A.M. Crunchwrap March 27. Breakfast is coming. 


Movie studios can also use GIFs as movie posters, which are more expressive and boasts greater sharing power than an otherwise dull static image. Disney’s Oz: The Great and Powerful is one great example of this.

                                                 The land you know, the story you don’t. Oz will amaze.

Television shows can also leverage GIFs to drive conversation around a significant moment within the show, and even create buzz and interest to convert non-viewers into watching the show. Both NBC’s Community and HBO’s Girls have incredibly active Tumblrs which promotes highlights from previous episodes and content from upcoming episodes as well.

                       lereyo: MEOWMEOWBEENZ The Koog approves!

As brands experiment, perceived barriers begin to wither away. For example, Bed, Bath, and Beyond sent this GIF via email to customers. The dynamic GIF automatically grabs attention, ensuring greater customer attention than an ordinary image would. It will be fun to see how other brands utilize GIFs in this way.

Like Vine and Instagram videos, GIFs are easy to make, enabling advertisers to craft topical GIFs at a moment’s notice. This makes them a perfect medium for real-time marketing, allowing brands to partake in conversations across the Open Web that are both socially topical and relevant to the brand image.

As impactful as the famous ‘You Can Still Dunk In The Dark’ tweet was for Oreo, I can’t help but imagine how much extra buzz Oreo might have received had the image brilliantly glowed as an animated GIF.