Explainer Videos

5 Tips for Startups Who Are Looking to Make an Explainer Video

Claude Harrington 01.25.2016

One reason why animated explainer videos have become so popular is that they have proven to be an extremely useful tool for many startups. From Dropbox and Groupon to Pinterest and Spotify, explainers have played a vital role in helping startups grow into established brands. But one thing that often gets lost in the shuffle is that these startups didn’t just use an explainer video to convey their young company’s message…they used an effective explainer video. So today, let’s discuss a few tips that will help ensure that your startup’s explainer video will be effective and, ultimately, a successful part of your video marketing strategy.

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1. It’s a Journey, Not an Encyclopedia: No matter how many long your explainer video is, the fact is that it won’t be able to convey everything about your startup. This may feel discouraging at first—or prompt thoughts/conversations about “fitting things in”—but the hopefully uplifting truth is that an explainer video shouldn’t serve as the be-all the end-all. It’s not meant to be a standalone encyclopedia of everything your company is and everything is will be. No, it’s much simpler than that. Your explainer video, ultimately, is a device to inspire a specific call to action.

Perhaps your call to action is getting users to sign up for a free trial. Perhaps you’d like them to download your app or subscribe to your service. Whatever the case, remember that achieving your call to action is what matters most. That is your destination. The explainer video, then, is really a journey to that destination. So when considering what information is relevant to your video, do so through the prism of your call to action. Ask yourself, over and over, is this detail, or is this approach, ultimately going to persuade viewers to enact my call to action?

2. Hero and Journeys Go Well Together: Not every explainer video needs to be centered around a hero, but it often helps to have some sort of protagonist there to guide viewers through the story. Someone whose existence makes your video feel more like a narrative and less like a bullet point list of facts and figures.

This is important for a handful of reasons (accessibility, familiarity, etc.), but the most important is probably that including a hero will make it more likely for viewers to finish the video. By creating something that feels like a narrative, viewers were instinctively want to know how the story ends. And since, in most cases, your story ends with the Call to Action, it’s critical to keep them watching the video for as long as possible.

3.   Confusion is Your Mortal Enemy: While we’re on the subject of viewer retention, let’s talk about the quickest way to lose a viewer: confusion. Just a single moment where a viewers says to himself, “Wait, What?” can derail and otherwise effective explainer video. And when the average attention span is only 8.25 seconds, it really doesn’t take that much to go from good to done.

Dealing with this can be particularly challenging for startups in the tech industry, where products and services are built on high-valued complexities. But even if complexity and sophistication is part of what differentiates your business, it’s important to make sure that sharing these points doesn’t deter the viewer from going forward.

This doesn’t mean you can’t highlight specific intricacies, but it just means that you need to find an effective means to traverse into that terrain. Such as…

4. Similes, Metaphors and Personification: As a startup you are inherently an unknown quantity. The goal of your explainer video is, in many ways, to change that. So it can be really beneficial to use familiar images and actions to help contextualize who you are and what you can do. At the same time, it can also be very helpful to take words and concepts we all know and create a character to personify and bring them to life.

Consider, for example, the video we did below for Distil Networks. They’re a digital security company with a unique (and pioneering) value proposition that’s been around since 2011.

We’ve all heard the term “bots” and are likely familiar with some of their negative behaviors, but seeing it personified by mischievous and malicious robots helps us internalize this concept in a more tangible way. And whether you end up using similes, metaphors and personification of any kind, that viewer internalization is something you should strive for regardless.

5. Watch Other Explainer Videos to Determine Likes/Dislikes: Like any art form, explainer videos possess a unique set of properties unto themselves. As a startup, it’s more important that you focus on your business and not the minutiae and intricacies of the genre. But it can be helpful to determine what you like (and what you don’t like) by watching explainer videos with similar objectives to your own. What works? What doesn’t work? And how can you differentiate yourself? Answering questions like these will not only help you better determine how you’d like to craft your message, but will also equip you with a shorthand when engaging with the animation studio you’ve hired.

To get you started, here are the four explainers mentioned at the top…

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