Explainer Videos: What are They and Why are They Great?

10.05.2021 Content Strategy
Eoin Dowdall
Creative Director

It’s short, it’s snappy, it’s engaging and it can transform the way people connect with a product or service. That’s the power of an explainer video and why they are one of the most effective forms of video marketing content out there.

It’s a success that’s based on real-world results. A 2020 study into the effectiveness of marketing video strategies found that 84% of consumers said they had been convinced to buy a product or service by an explainer video.

Embedding an effective explainer video into a company website has been shown to boost conversion rates by up to 80%. It helps to explain why they are now the most popular form of marketing video, the number one choice for nearly three-quarters (73%) of marketers.

What is an explainer video?

An explainer video is a short film that aims to communicate how something works in a simple and engaging way. They are typically used as marketing videos to demonstrate the benefits of a product or service and to boost sales or sign-ups.

They are also excellent for informational and educational purposes; to convey ideas, concepts or company protocols such as health and safety training and guidance.

A marketing-based explainer video typically lasts between 45 and 90 seconds and will use a snappy conversational script and an appealing visual style to capture the viewers’ attention. The two main types of explainer video are:

1. Animated explainer videos

This is the most common form used with digital tools making this an affordable option for organizations of all sizes. A variety of techniques are used with the most common being:

  • 2D Vector – a digital version of a typical ‘flat’ cartoon style
  • 3D Animation – use of 3D models to create animation
  • Motion Graphics – animation of text, graphs, charts etc

You can find a full overview of the different animation types here. 

The animation work is typically handled by an external production company but tools also exist, such as Powtoon, that allow simple videos to be created in-house. The bigger the budget, the more options you have and the better the quality is liable to be.

The main benefit of an animated approach is that it provides major creative freedom. You can create whatever kind of world or style that you want.

2. Live-action explainer videos

This is a more traditional approach with videos being filmed using real people, objects and locations. This could be as simple as somebody talking to the camera and demonstrating a product or service. Or it can be something more creative that uses humour or a particular movie or theme to get the message across.

The benefit of a live-action approach is that it delivers that emotive, human connection that comes from using real people. With so many explainer videos being animated, it’s a way to have your brand stand out from the crowd.

While there are more limits on what’s possible, a creative and simple approach can make a live-action approach an extremely cost-effective option.

Of course, there’s no rule that you have to stick to one or the other. Many explainer videos successfully use a hybrid approach that blends live-action and animated sequences.

What makes explainer videos so effective?

There’s a reason why explainer videos have become the dominant players in video marketing. It’s because… they work. They’re a form of content that engages with clients and customers and boosts conversion rates.

But what’s actually going on? What is it about the explainer video format that achieves such impressive results? Here’s a look at some of the qualities:

Brings focus to brands

To create an effective explainer video you have to work out exactly how your product or service can benefit people. Having to explain yourself in such a short space of time forces you to hone in on what’s important:

  • What do you actually do?
  • Why should anyone be interested?
  • How can you make them interested?

These are basic questions but ones that are not always easy to answer. Especially as the nature of an organization changes and evolves over time. The process of creating an explainer video requires you to strip away all of the noise and focus on only what’s important.

Brings Focus to Brands
Brings Focus to Brands

Tells engaging stories

Effective explainer videos have an unusually high viewer retention rates of around 77%. That means that once people start watching, most will stay to the end.

The reason for this is that a good explainer video tells a story. It follows a simple narrative structure that draws the viewer in and takes them on a short and enjoyable journey. The structure that most videos follow is:

1. Present the problem

This hooks a viewer in by identifying a relatable issue that you’re going to solve.

2. Offer your solution

You outline how your company’s product or service tackles the issue outlined.

3. Show how it works

You now show the mechanics of exactly how your solution solves the problem.

4. Provide a call-to-action

This type of video marketing shows viewers how they can access this solution – purchase an item, sign up for a service etc.

It’s a simple and versatile structure that’s extremely effective at communicating the benefits of what you do. While videos typically last only around 90 seconds, you must think about the narrative structure – how to engage a viewer and take them on a journey.

Engaging Stories
Engaging Stories

Communicates your culture

On the surface, an explainer video is a simple way to show what you do. But it’s really much more than that. The style, format and attitude of an explainer video can capture the culture and ‘feel’ of your organization and its brand.

The approach you choose should match how you want clients and customers to perceive you. This could be a reassuringly professional style or something that shows off creativity and a sense of humour. What works for an indy beer brand isn’t likely to be the same as for a law firm.

A good video production company will make sure that the approach they use for an explainer video is in harmony with the organization’s culture and brand.

Flexibility of the format

An explainer video is an ideal format for sharing across a range of digital formats. The simplicity and clarity of the content make it effective wherever it’s accessed. It has the same impact whether it’s being watched on the landing page of a company website, shared on a smartphone or even beamed out on a giant digital billboard.

This flexibility also extends to the various ways that the videos can be used. It could be part of a presentation or integrated into the employee onboarding process. It could be used as part of a crowdsourcing campaign or content using in the bidding process for clients and contracts.

So a good explainer video will act as a modern-day business card. It’s a quick and easy way to connect with people, to get across what you’re about and how you can help them.

Boosts your SEO rankings

When search engines rank web pages they’re looking at how long visitors typically spend on a page and how much they interact with its content. In Google Analytics, this is tracked via Sessions and the average time a visitor remains on a page is something around the 15-second mark.

This is what makes explainer videos so great for SEO rankings. By keeping people watching for two minutes or more, they are sending out all the right signals to the ranking algorithms. With an effective call-to-action, visitors will also be interacting with the content – clicking links, creating accounts etc.

And companies like Google are increasingly placing video content at the top of their search result pages. With smart use of keywords, tags and script transcriptions, an explainer video acts as a global gateway to your organisation.

Boosts your SEO Rankings
Boosts your SEO Rankings

Unlocks your creativity

Before digital video production and animation, creating an explainer video was expensive. It was something that only big brands with major marketing budgets could afford. Now it’s something that can be accessed by businesses of all sizes and types.

And with animated explainer videos, your imagination is the only thing confining your creative prowess. You can create whatever characters, settings, themes and worlds that you want. You can take inspiration from music or films or anything that you feel will help to connect with your clients and customers.

The cost-effective nature of a digital process promotes innovation. It allows you to try things out with changes or edits easily made if something doesn’t work out. And if it does, it could turn a good explainer video into a great one.

Conclusion: Keeping it simple

The explainer video is an effective way to deliver the most important message that any business or organization needs to communicate – what you do. It’s something that’s so basic but isn’t easy to achieve in an online world where people expect instant answers.

The explainer video format has evolved to create this instant connection. And a good explainer video will be doing much more than just providing a clear and concise explanation of a product or service. It will be giving the viewer a taste of what you’re about – the personality and culture of your brand.

Following our tips is just the start. Over the last decade, we’ve partnered with 100s of clients to produce 1000s of award-winning videos and animations across different sectors. Give us a call to get our creative partnership started.

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