The GIF/JIF debate: How the social media team at J.M. Smucker created a pop culture moment with a record breaking, two-day, debate-ending campaign

The pronunciation of GIF has been heavily debated for decades.

As Content Lead for Consumer and Natural Foods Gina Page and Digital Center of Excellence and Digital Strategy Lead Lauren Ganim were working to evolve the Jif brand on social, they decided to put an end to the debate.

The end result was a two-day campaign solidifying their stance that it's a hard “g” for GIFs and “Jif” is reserved for peanut butter — all using customized GIFs highlighting the difference.

via GIPHY

The planning process for the campaign took roughly five months and required partnering with teams across their organization.

That period began with a lot of legal processes they had to go through to get sign off. Then, they moved into three to four months of planning the tactics and what their content would specifically look like during the campaign.

Various teams across the organization — creative, social, PR, and digital — were heavily involved in every step of the process. Lauren added that they also worked with their ecommerce teams and brand teams to build out specific components of the campaign.

They had two key external partners: their agency partner and GIPHY.

“Our agency partners were instrumental in helping us brainstorm all the different pieces of content we were going to deploy,” said Gina. “For example, in our planning phases for our GIPHY partnership, we determined we wanted to have custom GIFs that would give consumers a tool to help them participate in the debate. And our agency partner helped us map out what that was going to look like.”

They ended up with 50 custom GIFs, which live in perpetuity on GIPHY's website and are available across social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.

“We knew we wanted to have one central location for folks to go to access them,” Gina said. “So, through our partnership with them, we have a Jif page on their website and did a homepage takeover for launch day. All of our assets were front and center.”

As they prepared to launch the campaign, they had one primary goal in mind: engagement.

“We wanted people to join the debate themselves, use our GIFs, and share their own perspectives,” said Gina. “And we wanted to have a lot of fun with this campaign to join the chatter that was already happening in the social space.”

Then, ahead of National Peanut Butter Lover's Day on March 1, they launched on Jif's Twitter and Instagram channels.

“Given the fact that we had all custom GIFs, we knew those were the channels where they would be most utilized,” said Gina. “That turned out to be particularly true on Instagram.”

via GIPHY

They also relied on paid influencers to amplify the campaign on social media — reaching 33-million new users.

According to Gina, those results surpassed their forecast by over 200 percent.

“It was a strong component of the campaign that enhanced all of the other activations we had going on,” said Gina.

To spur further engagement, they worked with their ecommerce team to develop a customized peanut butter jar for the campaign.

The jar features the GIF logo on one side with “hard g” next to it, and Jif's own logo on the other side with “soft g” next to it. Then, the jar was sold in an online exclusive with Amazon.

“It sold out in three and a half hours,” said Gina. “We got a second run on day two, and it sold out in less than five minutes.”

According to Lauren, the success of that campaign was beyond what they would ever have expected.

“We were seeing the GIF jars being resold on eBay for upwards of $80,” she said. “We were surprised by that. We had many conversations around price point and what we thought would be palatable for the consumer for more of a collector's item versus something you'd actually put in your pantry and eat. So, we were pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of excitement.”

The two-day campaign's results on their own channels were unprecedented and unexpected — with over two-billion impressions.

“Our media and PR impressions were over 2.2 billion and more than 5,000 social media mentions,” said Gina. “And, we're still seeing more come through.”

Lauren added that the campaign had been picked up in over 1,000 publications across the globe — which further bolstered its success.

via GIPHY

According to Lauren and Gina, the campaign ran so smoothly because their team prepared for every possible scenario and response to the campaign.

“We were prepared,” said Gina. “We thought through every scenario and had a response plan, an escalation plan, and an activation plan. In the end that proved beneficial to us, because we had thought through everything. There were no surprises when launch time came.”

They also had a command center during the launch and were Skyping with their agency partners in New York so they could collaborate from a social perspective in real time.

They also attribute much of that success to the collaboration with their internal and external partners.

“Having the merch turned out to be hugely important,” said Lauren. “It made it more real, and the exclusivity of the jars made it special. We weren't just igniting the debate, but we had the merchandise and the GIFs, which enabled the debate. As we talk about ways to potentially bring it back in the future, we want to make sure we do it in a way that maintains that allure.”

via GIPHY

But, Lauren said all these factors combined with it being the right campaign at the right time.

“The tone was right and the time was right,” she said. “It was a relevant conversation, and that's why it hit such a note with the audience organically. Plus, we had the right partnerships. Those were the things that made this more special than your typical activation.”

To develop a campaign as successful at this one, they emphasized the importance of taking risks and thinking outside the box.

“Take risks and be prepared,” said Gina. “And, when I say risks, I mean things like selling in an exclusive through an online retailer like Amazon. Early on, we thought it might not work. And then it sold out. It turned out to be a calculated risk.”

Lauren added that you really can't beat a strong idea. “There's lots of best practices, but you've got to start with something that is culturally relevant that your audience is going to latch onto,” she said. “That's how you'll find success.”

Lauren Ganim and Gina Page have been members of SocialMedia.org since 2020. You can follow Lauren and Gina on LinkedIn.