Idea Blog

What Type of Explainer Video is Right for Your Startup?

Claude Harrington 09.21.2016

In yesterday’s post, we talked about how every startup needs an explainer video. But, of course, explainers come in all different shapes, sizes and styles. So which is right for you? Whiteboard animation? 3D/CGI? Or perhaps what your business needs is another technique entirely. Either way, how long should it be? And what kind of call to action should it end with?

Today, we’ll answer those questions and many more as we explore what type of explainer video is right for your startup…


Whiteboard Animation

The origins of whiteboard animation trace back to the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Starting in late 2009, they began producing a series of videos in which the viewer could literally see a story hand-drawn on screen. These RSA Animate videos proved to be enormously popular on YouTube (one video in particular, a talk by Dan Pink, received more than seven million views).

The clean, easily-accessible style makes whiteboard animation a great fit for relaying especially complex bundles of information. Because the “drawing hand” provides a sense of perpetual forward momentum, the technique can be a great way to actually earn (and retain) engagement while digging deep into a process. The stark, linear look also works very well with connecting anecdotes and examples into a larger chronology or narrative.

To see what this looks like in action: We worked with KNOW Better Bread to create a video that would help launch their flagship product; a disruptive, scientifically-inspired food solution.

One other thing to note about this technique: of all the animation styles out there, this is the one that best lends itself to integration (often at the beginning or end) with photographic images of your product. Like this:

Screen shot 2016-09-06 at 7.09.43 PM

2D Character Animation

From the classic Disney movies we enjoyed as kids to the modern animated show that are increasingly on our televisions (and streaming devices!), 2D character animation is the technique we’re most accustomed to seeing. Which presents a familiarity that startups can use to their advantage.

This fun, friendly and fluid style is instantly eye-catching. And with a natural grace, 2D animation a great way to accommodate lots of action and movement.

To see what this looks like in action: We worked with Distil Networks to create a narrative about how they can help protect sites from the dangers of web scraping, competitive data mining, form spam and click fraud.

3D Animation (CGI)

3D animation a high-quality, cutting edge animation technique that has become increasingly popular in film and broadcast commercials.

3D animated videos project technological sophistication. With an unmatched richness of character and image, it’s a great way to showcase photorealistic representations of a product

To see what this looks like in action: Here’s a video we created to shine a light on Matthew Dixon’s bestselling book about brand loyalty and the modern customer experience.

Motion Graphics

Motion Graphics is animation that uses shapes and text in exciting and clever ways to help bring facts and figures to life.

With a sleek and modern look, Motion Graphics provides a great way to showcase stats and information. It’s especially useful to companies that are looking to avoid character-led messaging and instead prefer to focus on data-driven content.

To see what this looks like in action: In this video, we used sleek 2D motion graphics (with a little 3D) to highlight exactly what makes Scandis “The Best Value in Quality Modern Furniture.”

Video Length

The length of a video should correspond to the amount of information that needs to be conveyed (in conjunction with realistic expectations of how much time your audience will be willing to spend). In other words: there’s no such thing as the “right length.” Rather it’s all about finding the “right length for your specific message.”

That said, we’d be foolish to ignore what video metrics tell us about overarching trends and the effectiveness of various video lengths. In particular, there’s a great piece over at Wistia (How Long Should Your Next Video Be?) based on an analysis of over 500,000 videos.

These were the four biggest takeaways:

  • Videos up to 2 minutes long get tons of engagement
  • There is significant drop-off between 2 and 3 minutes
  • 6 to 12 minutes is sweet spot #2
  • Proceed with caution after 12 minutes

From Point A to Point CTA

A final piece of advice…

Regardless of which style you choose, there’s one thing all great explainer videos have in common: they tell a story. They all have a beginning, middle and end; they all take you on a journey from Point A to Point CTA (Call to Action).

This does not mean you need a full-fledged narrative filled with action, comedy and romance. It just means that your explainer video should be more than a “PowerPoint in motion.”  It should be more than facts and figures. Instead, it should leverage character, tone and the power of narrative to create something more impactful than the sum of its parts.

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