Selling with gifs and memes: capturing attention with animated images

Indians, as well as Brazilians, Russians and Chinese are spending more time online, on their phones. And when we talk about the role that the Internet plays in the lives of individuals, the economic adversities of these countries coupled with its tendency to self humor has created an environment where creativity flows in the form of memes.

In places like China, Uganda, Mexico, and even the United States, memes can fuse new narratives in society and influence media discourse in powerful ways. Activists utilize their power to draw attention and build communities around issues that might otherwise be ignored or censored.

Internet memes represent a new form of meaning-making, and the rapidity by which they are produced and spread underscores their importance. So much, that in places like Brazil, memes have started being used for politic reasons and helped get Bolsonaro elected in 2018 by using a good dose of these images and fake information. So why not use memes and animated images to sell? Seems like a no brainer.

Brazil memes and the nonsense war

The In Portugal We Don’t (@inportugalwe) profile was inspired by a 2015 Brazilian meme, it made fun of things that Brazilians and Portuguese speak different. When the Brazilians became aware of this fact, they started a real virtual war to see who would create more offensive memes. At the time, several profiles joined the fray and the hashtag “BR x PT” rose to the trending topics of the social network, also reflecting on Facebook.

After this episode, Brazilians with a lot of time on their hands got on virtual wars with other countries such as Argentina (a brazilian favorite to make fun of) and Spain.

How to make memes, classroom with flags.
How to make memes, classroom with flags.

After a few online wars, Brazilian memes became known worldwide. With this, people like Gretchen, Nazaré Tedesco (from the soap opera “Senhora do Destino”) and Inês Brasil gained fame and traveled all over the internet.

Brazil is seen as a great power of internet memes. Even with the economy and the political situation of the country sinking deeper and deeper, the joke factory never seems to stop. On the contrary, each new phase of Operation Lava Jato (made famous on the likes of Netflix) yields new mockery on social networks – and Brazilians demonstrate a great ability to laugh at themselves. The latest since Trump bombed Iran in the early days of 2020, the hashtag #ww3 in fact became a meme worldwide, not only in Brazil.

This blonde lady calculating meme was created from a Brazilia Soap Opera from the early 2000s.
This blonde lady calculating meme was created from a Brazilian Soap Opera from the early 2000s. Her name is Nazareth and the soap opera was called Senhora do Destino.

The power of Internet memes for politics

Memes are everywhere and have forever changed the way Indians communicate. Political propaganda isn’t new in that country nor dead. Instead, it’s alive and what’s changed is the medium, and degree to which political parties reach out to the public. In 2019, political parties in India used memes to relate patriotism with Hindu nationalism, discredit the other parties and counter speakers, create and share fake news to amplify feelings of dread and insecurity and position themselves as the solutions to these problems.

Internet memes represent a new genre of online communication. They are shared, posted, tweeted, commented upon, and discussed online as well as off-line. Often images, animated GIFs, or videos are remixed in such a way to incorporate intertextual references, quite frequently to popular culture, alongside a joke or critique of some aspect of the human experience.

A horror story

Statutory warning: This video is not for the faint-hearted.

Posted by Indian National Congress on Wednesday, January 16, 2019

In a place where the speed of information prevails, nothing better than putting a GIF to summarize everything you want to say with just one image, right? And if a picture is worth a thousand words, several images in a row are worth a thousand. That must be why they are successful. Despite being an image, GIFs have the ability to store frames in sequence and thus create the feeling of watching a video. But the advantage is that it’s a much shorter and faster loading image file with only a few 500 kilobytes.

But after all, what is this animated GIF?

The GIF format appeared in the early days of the internet, back in 1987, being developed by CompuServe. The name GIF stands for: Graphics Interchange Format. GIF images also support transparency and work in all types of browsers. By the way, nowadays they are present in every corner of the internet and even in smartphone applications. The only downside to GIF is that it is limited to 256 colors. For this reason some images may lose some quality when transformed to this format.

Competition shall be eliminated from r/gif

Why should I use it to do business?

You may be wondering if you should use animated GIFs for presentations, posts, creations, website, social networks and so on. And the answer to that question is simple: Yes, you must use it. Because it’s so cool! If it’s pet gifs or small children, which everybody likes, then it’s success for sure!

But, okay, if you want a more complete answer, we can convince you. Besides being very cool, animated GIFs can pass a lot of information in a short time, after all, are several images in sequence. You can use an animated GIF that shows the scene of a movie, for example. Or create one that contains information in text format. The options are the most varied. It is like having a video space, to put anything you want, only with ease of application and incredible compression.

Why not use memes and animated images to sell? Seems like a no brainer. In business attention spams are short. Use short images to capture it back.

Plus, animated GIFs are great for grabbing and catching the audience’s attention. A still image, in 5 seconds you have seen everything you need in it. An animated GIF can take several seconds. You will look at that image until the end and will probably keep seeing it again just to make sure you missed nothing. GIFs are really mesmerizing.

In business, where your prospects attention spam is divided and very short, fun images can help you capture their attention

How do I use these gifs and memes to sell?

If you’ve become convinced that animated GIFs are truly magical, now is the time to use them in your materials. First you must know that with great powers come great responsibilities. Therefore you should use this item with caution. Keep in mind that GIFs do not work in a PDF file, for example. And you may have trouble integrating them into some presentations. That’s why it’s always good to have the help of a marketing manager who easily creates and edits your posts, templates and presentations and can make images in GIF format that will work for what you want.

I put together here a few items for “etiquette” when using memes to sell, after all, here you are trying to sell something. Business has become more informal with the internet, but morals and beliefs are still the same.

  • You might want to avoid political parties when selling your product. But you can certainly use a neutral meme for that.
  • You also might want to avoid religions or other offensive jokes. Even though, some are purposedly used for specific audiences.
  • Keep it short and sweet. Following the images, being it a meme or a gif, use short descriptions to tie your agenda to the image. And don’t forget the Call to action.
  • Use it on presentations. Between topics or to close a section, videos and memes work great to keep the crowd engaged.
  • Videos and memes have started being used on LinkedIn and get great engagement. Some people complain that LinkedIn is not Facebook or Twitter and that posts there should be business related but the truth is the platform can be quite dead when its used ONLY for that. A little humor here and there will get you followers and expand your network.

That said, now it’s just up to you to create your own animated GIF or use one of these free banks and find the one that best fits your needs.


This is one of the most used today. Right on the homepage you can find the hottest GIFs of the moment and you can still use the keyword search box. Here you can also upload your own GIF and make it available on the platform, and you can also download or share directly on the social network you want.


Here you will also find on the homepage several animated GIfs that are booming. In addition, it has a bar with “Trending Tenor Searches”, which show the fastest growing search tags. You can also upload your GIF and share the ones you want straight to social networks easily.


One of the most accessed sites on the world wide web is Reddit. There is everything there! Forum, images, videos, gifs.  And it also has an animated gif session. Use Reddit for inspiration on anything. It might give you ideas of what to write and which source images to use.


On Meme Generator, you can easily pick the image source and add text on top. They have all memes you can think of: Batman Slapping Robin(winner!), Distracted boyfriend, Left Exit 12 off Ramp. Old and new ones you can think of.

Make memes using the most popular templates around the web or create your own new meme and see if it takes off. Easy peasy to use. Pick your image, add your text and that’s it.

But not everything is flowers

It would be great if you could use that for everything. Specially on an email to get someones attention. Well, if that user is using Microsoft Outlook, forget about it. On Outlook, animated gifs don’t play. It shows a static image. Which is really annoying. On Gmail and GSuite based emails, it runs just fine. But Microsoft Outlook which is the most used email reader, it doesn’t. It had to be Microsoft! Darn it!

More sources for memes in Marketing

These websites have published other brands campaigns using memes and this proves brands are paying attention to this and you should be too. Take a look at the following pages for inspiration for your next campaign. And see my featured image? That’s how easy it was to make a meme to convey a message.


Max Francisco has been doing digital projects in Brazil and the US for the last 15 years.