What is an explainer video?

15 min read
What is an explainer video?

Explainer videos have exploded in popularity in recent years. With 96% of people using them to research products and 87% of companies now relying on them for marketing, it’s no wonder they are everywhere.

But what exactly are explainer videos? How are brands using them to drive leads and sales? And what goes into creating an effective video? This comprehensive guide breaks down everything you need to know.

You’ll learn:

Whether you’re looking to leverage explainer videos to boost your business or simply want to better understand this increasingly popular format, this article will get you up to speed. Let’s dive in!

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What is an Explainer Video?

An explainer video is a short, animated video, usually lasting between 1-3 minutes, that explains a company’s product, service, or concept. The videos use visuals, graphics, and voiceovers to simply and engagingly describe:

  • How a product or service works
  • The solution a business provides
  • Complex concepts or ideas
  • New technologies or innovations

Explainer videos help simplify complex ideas.

Rather than reading dense text on a website, viewers can watch a short animated video to quickly understand key information.

The highly visual format also makes retaining the information much easier. This allows potential customers to evaluate products more effectively.

For example, a SaaS company might use an explainer video to demonstrate how their app works through animated screenshots.

An ecommerce business could use a Shopify product video to highlight their service for fast, free shipping and returns.

Nonprofits may create an AI generated video clip to showcase the impact of donations.

The popularity of explainer videos continues rising.

In fact, 87% of businesses now use product or service explainer videos in their marketing strategy, according to research by Rival IQ.

With the immense benefits explainer videos offer, it’s no wonder companies rely on them more and more.

Benefits of Using Explainer Videos

From driving website traffic to boosting sales, explainer videos offer an array of marketing benefits. Here are some of the top reasons businesses are investing in explainer videos:

Drive Website Traffic and Leads

Video has helped people learn more
Source: Wyzowl

Explainer videos are highly shareable content. Viewers can easily pass along videos via social media or email. This allows businesses to reach a much wider audience. According to research by Hubspot, video content generates 1200% more shares than text and images combined.

Videos also have incredible viral potential. Just look at the Dollar Shave Club’s 2012 explainer video that earned them over 25 million views and thousands of new subscribers. The entertainment factor gives viewers reason to watch and share again and again.

All those views and shares directed back to Dollar Shave Club’s website helped explode their growth. The site traffic and leads explainer videos drive is invaluable for companies looking to rapidly expand their reach.

Explain Complex Topics

Explainer videos excel at simplifying complex concepts, ideas, and products. Rather than relying solely on text descriptions, the visual animations and graphics make comprehension much easier for viewers.

For example, Google used an explainer video to clarify how their search engine actually works. Viewers can understand ideas like algorithms and web indexing more clearly thanks to the step-by-step animated format. Without the video, most people would find a text description confusing and tedious to get through.

The simplicity and ease of explainer videos allows companies to more effectively communicate detailed or innovative products and services. Taking something complex and making it understandable and engaging is an incredibly useful marketing tool.

Improve Brand Image

How video quality impacts trust
Source: Wyzowl

Explainer videos also enable brands to establish themselves as industry authorities. By clearly communicating key concepts related to their products or services, companies showcase their expertise.

Creating content that educates and informs viewers positions a business as an insightful thought leader. Google again serves as the perfect example, using instructional videos to cement themselves as the #1 search engine.

Well-produced explainer videos also add a layer of credibility through quality production value. High-end animation and graphics, professional voiceover work, and thoughtful messaging conveys competence and reliability.

For smaller or newer companies, an explainer video makes them appear much more legitimate. The polished look gives viewers confidence in the brand.

Boost Sales

Convinced to buy a product or service
Source: Wyzowl

At the end of the day, explainer videos serve the tangible goal of driving sales. According to Wyzowl’s research, 86% of people were convinced to purchase a product or service after watching a brand’s explainer video.

The videos lead viewers through the buying journey. First, they introduce the problem or need for a particular product. Then, they demonstrate how their specific product provides the ideal solution. Finally, an effective call to action prompts audiences to purchase.

Without ever reading a product description or testimonial, viewers can become buyers simply by watching a 1-2 minute animated video. Considering video viewers have a 157% higher chance of purchasing compared to non-video viewers, explainer videos deliver proven sales results.

Cost-Effective Marketing

From a budget standpoint, explainer videos provide an extremely high return on investment. Well-produced animations and concise runtimes allow videos to be created for a reasonable price.

And thanks to shareability, explainer videos essentially promote themselves once published. Instead of paying for each individual ad view, audiences actively choose to watch and distribute branded content to new viewers.

Dollar Shave Club spent just $5000 creating their explainer video in 2012. But the 25 million lifetime views it achieved otherwise would have cost over $500,000 in video ad space.

For the relatively low production cost, explainer videos offer massive marketing reach. The value for brand awareness and sales makes explainer videos a very wise investment.

Especially if you share your video content on Twitter or other social media platforms, you can reach a large audience with a small budget.

Types of Explainer Videos

While all explainer videos aim to simplify complex ideas, there are a few styles businesses commonly use. Companies can choose the type that aligns best with their industry, product, budget and target demographic.

Here are some of the most popular explainer video styles:

Animated Videos

Animated explainer videos use illustrations, graphics, and motion design rather than live footage. Animation provides the freedom to visually demonstrate concepts and ideas in a way live action cannot. Different styles under the animation umbrella include:

  • Motion Graphics - Uses kinetic graphic elements, typography, icons and messaging to explain an idea.
  • Whiteboard Animation – Mimics hand-drawn illustrations on a whiteboard with a voiceover explaining each drawing as it appears.
  • Character Animation – Uses animated characters, a plot line and a story narrative structure to explain a product or concept. Characters can encounter and solve problems demonstrating product/service benefits.
  • 2D Animation – Creates a flat, two-dimensional illustrated look resembling cartoons. Images and text are animated frame-by-frame.
  • 3D Animation – Renders more realistic 3D computer graphics and visuals. Allows displaying products from multiple angles and perspectives.

The playful, engaging styles of animated videos appeal strongly to viewer emotions. Audiences connect with characters and stories in a more memorable way through animation.

Live Action Videos

Live action explainer videos feature real human presenters either on camera speaking to the viewer, or voiceovers accompanying product demonstrations.

The authenticity of seeing real people and environments creates connections and builds trust. For example, showing employees in an office highlights real-world applications of a product. Videos can also blend animation with live footage for greater impact.

However, live video requires much higher production resources including filming location, equipment, and talent. Animated videos simplify the process significantly. But brands selling highly personal products/services may benefit from the realism live action provides.

Screencast Videos

Screencast videos, also called video screen captures, record the actual display screen of a smartphone, computer, or tablet. They capture clicks, cursor movements, typing, and device interactions in real-time.

This style works extremely well for software companies wanting to demonstrate user interfaces and app functionality. Viewers gain a first-hand perspective into platforms through the eyes of an actual user.

Screencasts turn static product images on websites into dynamic video walkthroughs. For virtual or digital products, showing rather than telling delivers huge value for viewer comprehension.

What Makes a Successful Explainer Video?

While explainer video styles vary in look and feel, they all share common traits that drive viewer engagement. Keep these key elements in mind when planning your next production:

Engaging Script

At the core of every great video lies an engaging script. Identify the key messages you want to communicate and shape them into an compelling, easy-to-follow narrative.

Determine whether using characters, humor and story-based messaging or a more technical, educational approach makes sense based on your content and audience. Maintain viewer attention by interspersing interesting stats, facts and questions.

Clear and Concise Explanation

The #1 goal of an explainer video is to simplify complex ideas. Avoid overly technical language and complex verbiage. Use conversational language and analogies to frame concepts in understandable ways.

Emphasize clarity over cleverness. Remove any fluff or unnecessary details that distract from core messaging. Every scene and line should move viewers closer towards comprehension.

Visuals Matched to Narrative

Reinforce messaging through supportive visuals tied directly to the script narration. Well-executed motion graphics, animations and on-screen text guide viewers through each point.

Maintaining visual dynamism through color, movement and flow keeps the experience visually stimulating. Match changes in narration pace and tone with appropriate visuals shifts.

Ideal Length

With online attention spans shrinking, concise video length is key. 60% of viewers abandon online videos after the first minute. Explainer videos lasting 1-3 minutes satisfy viewers’ limited patience while still effectively communicating key information.

Only cover details essential to demonstrating the product, service or concept benefit. Additional information can always be shared through links and other resources for interested viewers.

Professional Voiceover

Hiring professional voiceover talent vastly improves messaging quality. Their experience, recording environment and delivery style lends necessary gravitas.

Whether using a conversational or authoritative tone, polished voice work ensures an appropriate match to branding and script tone. Poor or amateur VO detracts from overall quality and engagement.

Brand Consistency

Visually and tonally, explainer videos should align seamlessly with existing brand identity and website aesthetics. Using consistent logos, fonts, color schemes and messaging creates cohesion across properties.

Maintaining the look and feel viewers associate with your brand ensures explainer video viewers still feel connected to the company’s broader image.

Impactful Call-to-Action

Every explainer video should prompt a specific viewer action or response. Clearly articulate the intended next step you want audiences take after watching – subscribe, download, enroll, purchase etc.

Strategically reinforce this CTA through visual cues and messaging emphasis. Place the strongest call to action at the very end so it remains top-of-mind after viewing.

Crafting an explainer video with these elements transforms passive viewers into engaged participants that better understand and value your products.

Best Practices for Creating Explainer Videos

Developing a high-converting explainer video requires thoughtful planning and execution. Follow these best practices during the production process:

Identify Goals and Target Audience

Begin by defining the key goals you want to achieve from the explainer video. Is the primary focus driving trial signups? Educating about a concept? Promoting a new product feature? Establishing thought leadership?

Identify metrics like website clicks, signup rate and social shares to benchmark success. Also determine the exact viewer persona the messaging should resonate with most.

Write a Clear Script

Flesh out the underlying video narrative through a script writing process. Maintain sharp focus on only need-to-know details that progress viewers towards clarity.

Script each scene with specific visuals in mind, noting graphics, on-screen text and other elements to reinforce messaging. Time script length to fit within an ideal 1-3 minute run time.

Storyboard Scene Visuals

Translate the script into a visual storyboard detailing key shots and graphics. Sketch each scene to conceptualize scene flow, transitions and asset design needed.

Refine storyboards with producers to finalize animation styles, graphic elements, color schemes before production begins. Adjust script if needed based on visual limitations.

Hire a Professional Voiceover Artist

Don’t underestimate the importance of an experienced voice artist to fully realize a visionary script. Their unique expertise and objective perspective maximizes delivery potency and consistency.

While hiring a VO pro requires greater investment, it pales in comparison to the value quality vocal work adds.

Verify Brand Consistency

Maintain consistent branding between the explainer video and your website to reinforce connection. Use the same logo variations, fonts, imagery style, color schemes, messaging voice and tone.

Consistency builds recognition and familiarity with audiences. Deviating from existing visual or verbal branding only serves to weaken messaging impact.

Promote Video on Multiple Platforms

Distribute completed videos across as many channels as possible - website, blog, social platforms, email, paid ads etc. Insert videos directly into landing pages and sales funnels where most relevant.

Continue monitoring performance on each channel and adapt promotion strategies accordingly to improve metrics.

Examples of Effective Explainer Videos

Examining high-performing explainer videos from other brands offers helpful guidance for creating your own. Here are two stellar examples with analysis:

Dollar Shave Club

One of the most popular viral explainer videos ever came from subscription razor service Dollar Shave Club. Launched in 2012 with a $5000 video budget, the humorous video has earned over 25 million views. The runaway success increased Dollar Shave Club's customer base exponentially.

The video stars CEO Michael Dubin who delivers an engaging, off-the-cuff style pitch for the brand's offerings. His relaxed, conversational approach connects with viewers who feel like they're talking to a friend. The use of outtakes and bloopers adds to the casual feel.

The animation visuals simplify the otherwise boring concept of a razor subscription service. Bright colors, dynamic motions and fun illustrations of Dubin riding a razor convey energy. The style mirrors Dollar Shave Club's playful, anti-corporate brand image.

The magic of this explainer video lies in its simplicity. It avoids overly clever or complex messaging. Dubin directly states the problem of overpriced razors and clearly explains Dollar Shave Club's solution. This clarity, paired with humor and highly sharable moments, cemented its astronomical success.

Google Chrome

In 2009, Google wanted to promote their new Google Chrome browser in a memorable way. They produced a lively explainer video personifying the Chrome logo to educate viewers on Chrome's key features and purpose.

The animated character "Chrome" interacts with real-world objects while a cheerful musical score plays. The friendly personality makes Chrome feel approachable. When detailing browser speed, memory management and other technical topics, Chrome uses clever analogies involving books, a restaurant and puzzles.

Seeing browser components brought to life as animated characters simplifies complex ideas. Viewers gain a clear, engaging understanding of why Chrome performs better than other browsers. The mix of animation and real-world settings create a visually dynamic video.

The video concludes with the slogan "Install Google Chrome." This simple messaging reduction leaves a lasting impression and prompts viewers to take action immediately.

In a few minutes, the video successfully plants Chrome's core benefits in viewer memory through fun storytelling and characters. The visual metaphors and playful personality carry much more impact than dry technical descriptions.

Conclusion

As online video consumption grows exponentially year-over-year, explainer videos present a tremendous medium to reach and convert new audiences.

When leveraged correctly, they drive measurable results from web traffic and lead generation to new sales.

The unique ability of explainer videos to simplify complex ideas gives brands an opportunity to demonstrate their most innovative products and services.

Combining compelling scripting, thoughtful visuals and clear messaging can craft a powerful viewer experience in just minutes.

But not all explainer videos achieve success.

By following proven best practices during production and promotion, companies give their videos the best chance to achieve KPI goals. Evaluating metrics over time and iterating based on data allows videos to continually improve.

With the many styles and creation options available, every brand can develop explainer videos tailored to their specific needs and budget.

The expansive benefits mean there’s practically no limit to how businesses can leverage explainer videos in their marketing and sales processes.

There’s no question - if companies want to drive growth in a competitive landscape, they need to incorporate explainer videos in their strategy.

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