GIFs — they stand for graphical interchange format images — have come a long way since the dancing cha-cha baby of the ’90s, graduating to Drake shouting courtside and Tracy Morgan adamantly shaking his head “no.”
Since the bitmap image format was developed in 1987, Giphy — a platform for creating and sharing GIFs across the internet and web applications — has grown to almost 300 million users a day sending 2 billion-plus GIFs through its service.
In 2016, GIF Out Loud was launched by founder Chynna Morgan. Morgan had been studying for her master’s degree in healthcare. She lacked a tech background but wondered if it was possible to add sound to the 30-year-old-plus visual internet staple GIFs had become. “I had the idea of being able to use our own voice (on) GIFS to communicate,” she said.
Audio branding is something a lot of brands haven’t tapped into because they’re always focused on the digital element of marketing. But sound has the most powerful and profound connection with consumers.Chynna Morgan, founder of GIF Out Loud
GIF Out Loud combines audio marketing with GIFs, building interactive and personal experiences during events using sound to enhance brands’ connection with guests. The company works music artists as well, building customized GIF Out Loud apps that can be placed at events, kiosks and iPad mirrors.
Since launching, GIF Out Loud has provided customized GIFs with branded sounds via its proprietary platform for customers including Shell and Pennzoil.
Most marketing experts know the impact that colors, shapes and audio can have on a brand’s identity. “There’s power in hearing someone’s voice and hearing their tone when you’re conversing with them,” Morgan told Moguldom.
Morgan shares how GIF Out Loud is going big in the fourth quarter, how she used the internet to grow her business and why fundraising is not even on her radar.
My biggest challenges: I didn’t come from a tech background. (I didn’t know how) to start or get an app built. I didn’t know how to connect with brands … not letting the fact you don’t have a background in engineering or knowing how to code affect your success or what you want to do.Chynna Morgan, founder of GIF Out Loud
Moguldom: Why did you start GIF Out Loud?
Chynna Morgan: When I initially started GIF Out Loud, it was all about kind of bringing our voice back to communications. People don’t really talk on the phone anymore. All they do is message. There’s power in hearing someone’s voice and hearing their tone when you’re conversing with them. So, I said, “What if we’re able to add a voice to GIFs since they are shared a billion times a day through text messaging?” We could use our voice as we communicate using a visual, and now be able to add sound. That’s how it initially started. Then a year after launching my company, Shell reached out to us and asked me to create them their own GIF Out Loud platform. This got me thinking this technology could be a platform that enables brands to market their visual and audio branding to their consumers during different activations. So that’s how we transitioned from not only being a communication platform but to also being a platform that allows brands to create interactive experiences, using GIFS and their sounds to connect on a deeper level with their consumers.
I always wanted to keep 100 percent control of what I’m doing. Since I found a way to make more money than I’m putting out, it was logical for me not to go the funding route. I’m blessed and I’m grateful I haven’t needed any extra outside capital as of yet.Chynna Morgan, founder of GIF Out Loud
Moguldom: What have been some of the biggest challenges since starting GIF Out Loud?
Chynna Morgan: One of my biggest challenges has been that I didn’t come from a tech background. I was actually getting my master’s degree in healthcare management when I had the idea of being able to use our own voice to GIFS to communicate. I would say not knowing anyone in the tech space, and not knowing how to start or get an app built. I didn’t know how to connect with brands. It’s really been a learning process. I really had to start by asking myself, “What exactly am I doing?” I did not have anyone I could really reach out to because none of my friends were in tech or in marketing. They all had a healthcare background. So, I’ll say not having a background in tech or having anyone I could reach out to ask for their advice — that was my challenge in the beginning.
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Moguldom: How did you overcome the challenge of not having a tech background?
Chynna Morgan: Determination and not giving up. I don’t think I really let that hinder what I was doing. I just knew I didn’t have the background. So, I said, “What’s the next step? How do I start learning how to do it?” You have to have a mindset of not letting that hinder you and taking that as a learning experience. You have to say, “What can I do? Who can I reach out to?” It’s a matter of really thinking outside the box and not letting the fact you don’t have a background in engineering or knowing how to code affect your success or what you want to do.
I went to my own accelerator — the “Me, Yahoo and Google” accelerator program. I had to do it on my own. I really started with a lack of knowledge in tech and now I’m here with big brands using my tech.Chynna Morgan, founder of GIF Out Loud
Moguldom: How does your technology work? Is it only for large brands?
Chynna Morgan: We work with brands and music artists. We build them their own customized GIF Out Loud app for it to be placed at their event, whether via a kiosk, or an iPad mirror. Their consumers do not have to download an app from the App Store. Our product is more about the experience consumers have onsite during the brands’ marketing activation. Whether it’s a smaller brand or a larger brand, we collaborate with both. Our customers let us know exactly how they want to amplify their sound. We feel that audio branding is something a lot of brands haven’t tapped into, because they’re always focused on the digital element of marketing. But sound has the most powerful and profound connection with consumers.
Moguldom: Besides working with Shell, are there any other notable wins that you’ve had?
Chynna Morgan: Yes. This year we have branched out more. We do have some big brands we are working with right now but I can’t say the names just yet. We are in the process of building some cool technology for them and their activations that will take place later this year. We’re also working with a music artist in London for his tour. He will have his own GIF Out Loud platform for engagement during his tours.
Moguldom: Did you go through an accelerator program or did you learn as you went along?
Chynna Morgan: I went to my own accelerator. I went to the “Me, Yahoo and Google” accelerator program. (laughs) I had to do it on my own. I think with me doing it on my own, I’ve learned so much. I think founders kind of need that process of tapping into their own knowledge and figuring things out. When you do that, I think you appreciate how far you’ve come even more. I really started with a lack of knowledge in tech and now I’m here with big brands using my tech.
I think that is it was worth not getting the extra help in the beginning.
The GIF Out Loud app changed the way brands communicate by enhancing GIFs.The Tech Connoisseur
Moguldom: According to Crunchbase, you have not raised any funds yet. Are you considering fundraising?
Chynna Morgan: I don’t want to fundraise. I’m at a place now where I’m making money. There’s no need for me to be raising funding. I never wanted to because I always wanted to keep 100 percent control of what I’m doing. Since I found a way to make more money than I’m putting out, it was logical for me not to go the funding route. I’m blessed and I’m grateful I haven’t needed any extra outside capital as of yet.
Moguldom: What advice would you give to another person that is looking to start a company who is Black or brown?
Chynna Morgan: I would say to do your research. I think everyone wants to start a company because it sounds so fun — “I’m going to be the founder of my own company”. Not really doing the market research and seeing if your idea is going to work or not is setting yourself up to not be successful. Really, really know exactly what you’re building and how it’s going to affect people and how you can market it. And another thing I will say is, you just have to believe in yourself. Because if you don’t believe in yourself, no one’s going to believe in what you’re doing. I would say that’s probably the most powerful thing you can do is just believing yourself
Moguldom: Where do you see your company five years from now?
Chynna Morgan: Ten years from now I see us being global, breaking into new markets, culture, politics, healthcare, and music venues. I think we can tap into any market that has a creative opportunity to amplify a brand’s voice and create a ton of ways to amplify the sharing power of voice to their consumers.