Beauty brands are using GIFs to connect with young shoppers.
Today, Benefit Cosmetics is launching a partnership with popular GIF creator GIPHY, introducing 20 branded GIFs to the Instagram library. It’s following a number beauty brands that have gone there: A basic search for “makeup” within the Instagram GIF library yields results of animated MAC lipsticks, an Essie nail polish, DELA lipstick, Mecca Max perfumes, Make B gloss and a Dr. Paw Paw balm.
At the center of the Benefit partnership is Instagram, though the GIFs — compressed, continuously looped versions of video clips or animations that often become widely shared interned memes — will be available across GIPHY-compatible platforms including SMS text messaging, dating app Tinder and instant chat service Slack.
Driven by the popularity and direction of Instagram — the company doubling down in its efforts to reach beauty industry insiders and executives — cosmetics companies like Benefit are turning to GIFs in an effort to get younger customers’ attention, and keep it. Instagram is where they’re spending their time.
According to a Benefit spokesperson, the LVMH-owned brand began to see a “vast shift” in attention from its Snapchat account to its Instagram stories at the end of 2017. Today, the average open rate for a Benefit Cosmetics Instagram Story is roughly 4 percent, nearly a full percentage higher than the median open rate of fellow beauty accounts with over a million followers. (Benefit has 7.7 million followers.)
The Instagram platform has functionally remained the same, but a a number of functions have come and gone. Instagram stories has had a fickle relationship with GIFs: GIFs were first available for Instagram Stories starting in January, then suspended in early March after Instagram discovered a racial slur GIF in the GIPHY library. They were reinstated at the end of March.
According to consumer insights firm software platform Crimson Hexagon, there have been about 75 million posts across social media that contain the word “GIF.” Although that number doesn’t account for all posts with a GIF included, “75 million is still a huge number to give a sense of how popular they are among social channels,” said Brian Johnson, a Crimson Hexagon marketing analyst.
The combined reach of Instagram and GIPHY’s cross-platform presence no doubt drove the Benefit partnership. The true power of GIFs as branding tools became evident in 2016, when Kim Kardashian launched a set of “KIMOJI”-themed GIFs through a smartphone app and keyboard extension.
GIPHY is estimated to be worth around $600 million, plus it has 300 million daily users and thousands of corporate partnerships across platforms. Benefit worked with the company to develop GIFs of pink comic book characters in a pop art universe and slogans like, “Brow game strong.” (Benefit’s eyebrow products have cult-like followings.)
While the Benefit rep said its Instagram content strategy includes the ubiquitous quick tutorial and influencer takeover, GIFs provide the brand a new opportunity to accomplish its most important task today: reaching Generation Z. Nearly three-quarters of Benefit’s Instagram followers are between 18 and 34 years old. Only 8 percent of its followers are between ages 13 and 17.
Benefit’s social media manager Angela Purcaro said, in a short-lived test launch with a select group of influencers, the Benefit-branded GIFs reached millions of users through Instagram stories. That kind of reach and shareability has led Benefit’s marketing team to believe this will be among its most successful brand awareness initiatives to date.
“I think this is going to be something we play with, test and repeat,” Purcaro said. “From a brand awareness perspective, it’s so important that we’re reaching new people who live on Instagram stories, like those Gen-Z girls just being introduced to the Benefit brand.”