Explainer Videos

The Balancing Act: Fun vs. Professionalism in Your Explainer Video

Claude Harrington 04.11.2016

Whether you’re creating an explainer video or simply watching one, you’ll want the video to be fun and engaging. At the same time, you’ll likely also want that explainer to be on-tone and professional. But sometimes these things–the fun and the professionalism–can feel like opposing forces. So how do you go about balancing those out? How do you create an explainer that simultaneously feels both fun and professional? It’s a fine line to walk, but it’s an important one. And that’s exactly what we’ll be discussing today.

Balancing Act: Fun vs. Professionalism Explainer

Setting the Tone: On this blog, we often talk about the importance of creating a strong opening for your explainer video. We even devoted a whole post to this topic a couple weeks back with Baiting the Hook: 6 Ways to Start Your Explainer with a Bang. Typically, when we touch upon this concept, it’s to impress the importance of engaging the viewer. With the average human attention span being only 8.25 seconds, it’s vital to hook viewers from the getgo.

Well, not only is a strong start important for that reason, but in light of today’s discussion–fun vs. professionalism–the opening of your explainer also plays another vital role. Because in these first 5-10-15 seconds, you are setting the tone for the rest of your explainer ahead.

At first glance, this reality may seem intimidating. But if executed skillfully, setting the tone can actually be used to your advantage. Meaning that if you’re able to strike the right tone early on, you create a lot more leeway for yourself later on in the video. Once a certain tone is established, viewers will process the information and images in your video through a prism that you’ve helped create.

This is an example of how you can use structure to your advantage, but it only leads us deeper into that all-important question about fun and professionalism: what should that balance actually be?

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The Game of Darts: There are no “rules” when it comes to this balance act because there are so many variables at play. From product and service to message and brand, the variables that inform your tone run the gamut. So much so that, at times, it can feel like playing a game of darts in the dark. But the good news is that even in the  that metaphorical darkness, you still know what the bullseye is: your target audience.

You may not know the exact demographics of your target audience, but you know that none of this matters without them. As a result, you can work backwards from that information…

Consider the Spectrum: Even though you won’t know exactly who will be watching your video, you likely have enough information to create profiles for your potential viewers. Armed with this data, you can create a spectrum of personas. It is, of course, always helpful to keep the end-users in mind when crafting your video, but this is particularly valuable when addressing that balance between fun and professionalism. Because here–with this matrix of profiles and traits–you are actually able to evaluate the impact of your video’s tone.

For example, let’s say that you’re selling a high-end baking tray. This is a product that might be purchased by anyone from a matronly home-maker to a brash young chef. These two different profiles (as well as those in between) likely don’t have much in common. So, when trying to find the right balance, it can be helpful to go down the list–rung by rung–and assess what each audience member is looking for and how they might react to certain creative decisions. This kind of evaluation can really help reveal the parameters for your project.

Character and Narrative Driven Humor (or It’s a Good Idea to Avoid Jokes Just for the Sake of Jokes): In the example above, we noted that the “matronly home-maker” and “brash young chef” don’t have much in common. But just because there are many differences, it’s important not to forget that they also have something major in common: an interest in high-end baking trays. Maybe they will purchase your product, maybe they will not, but this united interest is the common thread that will keep both engaged with your video.

At its heart, this commonality is the narrative engine that should drive your video. So that this way, even if the characters featured in your explainer don’t look or sound exactly like the viewer, they will still be able to gravitate towards the shared passion; or a shared frustration over challenges faced. All of which is a long way of saying that because this common thread is what really drives your video, the best opportunity for humor and playfulness tend to come out of moments related to the underlying narrative and message. Because the viewer can follow along and relate, these opportunities for fun are often more welcome by the viewer. It feels like the video is speaking to them, not at them. It feels earned, and also earnest. As opposed to the alternative, where jokes and gags are just thrown in for the sake of seeking a laugh.

In summary, don’t go for the easy laugh. Not only may it feel cheap, but since it’s not related to story or message it can be especially hard to anticipate how viewers react. Instead, consider your target audience, calibrate a tone and then–always keeping their wants, desires and concerns in mind– try to strike that beautiful balance between fun and professionalism.

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