Animated Video Production

7 Great Explainer Videos that Don’t Say a Word

Shawn 05.03.2017

Here at IdeaRocket, we love explainer video voiceover. The right accent, inflection, and tone add trust, brand awareness, and persuasive power to any animated explainer video. However, sometimes the best explanations don’t require a single word. Shifting viewership habits and the rise of mobile video has created a new breed of explainer video without words. People want their videos silent, so businesses and brands are shifting to visually independent explainer videos that ditch voiceover in favor of simple product demos, on screen text, and colorful branded messages. And it’s working.

While there will always be a place for talented voice acting in animated video, it’s worth taking a look at what’s causing this shift to silent explainer videos with a few examples of brands that have made great silent online video. Explainer videos are a fundamentally visual medium, and while we love a nice yarn, talking isn’t the only way to get your point across.

Explainer Videos are Mobile Now. And Silent.

To put it simply, mobile devices have transformed the way we watch online video. Gone are the days of clicking on a link at your desk only to be blasted with a video autoplaying at full volume as you frantically search for the open tab. People now watch more online video on mobile devices than desktops, and silent autoplay has become the default setting for mobile video.
85% of Facebook video is watched without sound. The shift away from voiceover and sound is so pervasive that Facebook video ads best practices even recommends producing high quality videos that are designed to be watched without sound:

“When sound is off, beautiful imagery and on-screen text can help tell your story. When enabled, your video’s sound should offer additional value to viewers and further bring your story to life.”

If you want to reach new prospects and current customers with your video, you have to adapt. Luckily, animation is a fantastic way to captivate viewers even with a single word.

Animated Explainer Videos: Perfect for Silent Autoplay and Mobile Video

An explainer video (animated or live action) has one goal—to engage viewers. For people to learn about your startup or buy your product they have to want to watch the video, and to do that, you have to hook them—even without sound.

silent explainer video

Mobile viewers are fickle—with short attention spans—so one of the biggest strength of animation is the instant appeal of cartoons. People just plain like animation. The bright colors, recognizable shapes, pleasing motion, and simple presentation are enticing elements that increase engagement. Great explainer videos use a combination of high quality visuals, narrative storytelling, compelling characters, and a clear focused objective to get people to watch the video—even without saying a word.

Once engagement happens, conversion is close behind. Whether that means downloading the app, signing up for the conference, clicking a link, or buying a new state-of-the-art vacuum cleaner, the goal of explainer videos is the same—to engage viewers and inspire action. Animation increases engagement and conversion even in the new silent era of online video.

For a more in-depth look at mobile video and tips to make your own, here’s a complete rundown of Mobile Video Best Practices.

So in acknowledgement that there’s more than one way to create a great explainer video, here are a few of our favorite animated and live action explainer videos that don’t say a word. *broadly sweeps hand in a welcoming gesture* (aka “Enjoy”).

#1 Squarespace: “Create Your Own Space” — 536,529 views

Squarespace caters to designers, programmers, restaurateurs, writers, eCommerce sites, bloggers, and small business owners, so condensing all of these markets into a single campaign is tough enough. But they took their video marketing a step further by removing the voiceover entirely.

The clean shots of artists, craftsmen, and creators at work is inspiring, and uniform imagery that unifies this video – despite the chaos of interwoven scenes – becomes the primary storytelling element. This explainer video practically screams “even though your work may be as different as welding is to baking, you take your craft seriously – and so do we.”
But Squarespace didn’t abandon voiceover without a plan. The static, uniform overhead shot is crucial to telling the “same story” for all the different professions, and the cuts and edits are flawless. Yes, you do hear a male announcer in the last three seconds (you stickler), but this is a wonderful example of how committing to a simple style can be all the story-telling element you need. Wonderful job.

#2 Spotify: “Spotify has Landed in the U.S.” – 770,144 views

The choice to ditch voiceover in this explainer makes perfect sense—Spotify brings you quality music, so why hide that awesome feature beneath unnecessary talking? Let the product shine. The stop-motion feel to the animation is synced to the music with plenty of screenshots and branded imagery. While the videos does make use of some kinetic type (almost like silent narration), the user experience comes across through the musical storytelling and vibrant animation. Even years later, this explainer video holds up.

#3 Fifty-Three: “Pencil – Think With Your Hands” — 1.8 million views

This product does everything right, but the way Fifty-Three highlights the UX and ease of use is simply perfect. The new Pencil stylus is literally the center of attention of the explainer as the camera tracks its every move (I got a tiny bit queasy). The ergonomics of Pencil as a natural writing, sketching, drawing, erasing tool come through in every frame.
The use of ambient sound–especially in the beginning–sets the mood of the everyman creator. Glasses clink, fabric scratches against wooden tabletops, and the viewer is right there, creating alongside them. We feel the soft warmth of the tablet in our laps as we sketch our next masterpiece or jot off a quick grocery list.

The way they toy with the stylus, tap it against the table, or flip it around to erase on the tablet is classic “show don’t tell.” I’m buying one of these.

#4 Rubbermaid Replaceable Panels

It’s simple, sleek, and demos the product without saying a single word about the technically complex offering. On screen text makes this product video work in a number of mobile formats on every platform.

#5 AirBnB: “Wishlists” — 26,229 views

Much like Dropbox, AirBnB has cornered their market with a dynamic product and oh-so-clever video marketing. One of my favorite videos is their “Views” video which features the different views from hosts’ windows around the world. It’s epic but, sadly, features voiceover (a really good one, too!). However, this “Wishlists” explainer video is a clear example of UX Video Marketing 101. Every frame–from the establishing shot of the girl lost in a daydream at work, to the couple cuddling as they plan their honeymoon–is focused on the user. Close-up screenshots and product shots immerse viewers in the ease of use, but the success of the explainer video is more than just a product explanation.

AirBnB shows how Wishlists helps you plan your dream vacation, honeymoon, or weekend getaway. This video quietly inspires viewers to dream up a Wishlist of destinations and see what’s waiting around the next click. Maybe it’s a castle (AirBnB totally has castles, by the way).

#6 Knock: “Faster and Safer than Typing a Password, Just Knock” — 691,281 views

I’m actually not a huge fan of this product, but I’ll be damned if Knock doesn’t simplify the user experience. No flowery sentiment or complicated tech specs here. Just what Knock does. Twice. How fitting.

#7 Spotify: Save Your Parents from Musical Shame — 31,463 views

One final parting shot for silent animation. This clever use of text inspires action in such a subtle way. If you don’t know what it means, you’re gonna head over to Spotify and find out. Or maybe urban dictionary. Your call.

Silent Online Video: Embrace Animated Video

explainer video1
Sometimes the best promotion means removing clutter and letting your product speak for itself. Voiceover is a powerful tool to get your message across. However, sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.

If you’re interested in producing an explainer video, be sure to checkout our portfolio for more examples.

Shawn

Born in Southern California, Shawn grew up surfing, eating In-N-Out, and growing his hair long. After graduating with a Liberal Arts degree from CSU Long Beach in 2005 he left the crowded freeways behind and spent the better part of a decade traveling the world living for stretches in Rome, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and Brooklyn. He writes novels as well as copy, loves learning keyboard shortcuts, and plays his grandpa’s old lap steel guitar. You can hear his band at ponieswillbiteyou.com

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