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December 3, 2019·6 min read

How to Create Explainer Videos That Actually Explain Things

Explainer videos are essential for businesses. Find out why you need one, how to make it, and where to share it. Plus: See examples of good ones.

If you’ve ever tried to explain something cool or complex to a friend or coworker, you know how tough it can be to explain something both effectively and succinctly.

That’s where explainer videos—a popular type of video for businesses—come in.

  1. Contents
  2. 1.What is an Explainer Video?
  3. 2.Benefits of Explainer Videos
  4. 3.Where to Use Explainer Videos
  5. 3.1Website and Landing Pages
  6. 3.2Social Media and Paid Social
  7. 3.3Crowdfunding Sites and Campaigns
  8. 3.4Conferences, Presentations, and Events
  9. 4.Types of Explainer Videos
  10. 4.1Animated Explainer Video
  11. 4.2Whiteboard Explainer Video
  12. 4.3Live Action Explainer Video
  13. 5.How to Make an Explainer Video
  14. 6.5 Explainer Video Best Practices
  15. 6.1 Focus on Your Audience
  16. 6.2 Start Strong
  17. 6.3 Keep it Short
  18. 6.4 Use a Good Explainer Video Script
  19. 6.5 Provide Strong Narration
  20. 7.7 of the Best Explainer Videos
  21. 7.1 Headspace
  22. 7.2 Jostle
  23. 7.3 Tattoodo
  24. 7.4 Fender Play
  25. 7.5 Influitive
  26. 7.6 Capital One
  27. 7.7 SnackNation

What is an Explainer Video?

An explainer video is a short, powerful video that captures your brand promise and shows potential customers what you do and why they should care. Think of it as an elevator pitch in video form.

There are several different types of explainer videos that you can use to suit your brand style and objectives. No matter which of the explainer video styles you choose, though, your goal is to explain your product or service while answering the question “what’s in it for me” from the perspective of your audience.

Watch and Learn

Mat King, Vidyard’s Video Production Manager, gives an overview of what explainer videos are and how to make an effective one. He’s joined by Blake Smith, Vidyard’s Creative Director, and the pair break down a real explainer video to highlight what makes a good one.

Benefits of Explainer Videos

Explainer videos are all about making a complex idea or concept easier for your audience to identify with and understand.

They’re an incredibly popular way to take in brand information: 96% of people have watched an explainer video specifically to learn more about a product or service. And far more people (68%) say they want to learn about a new product or service from a video than from a text-based article (15%). When asked what kind of brand video they’d like to see more of, more people chose explainer videos than any other type of video content.

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Get the Explainer Videos Checklist checklist graphic Ready to make an explainer video? This list covers all the things you need to know to get it right. Get the List

Where to Use Explainer Videos

So, where can you put explainer video assets to use?

Website and Landing Pages

Your own website is a great place to post your explainer videos. A general introductory explainer video works well on your home page, whereas more specific explainers will be most effective on landing pages that support the messaging of each video.

(Psssst: Not sure how to add your explainer video to your site? Vidyard’s free video hosting lets you embed your videos anywhere.)

Social Media and Paid Social

Your social channels and social ads are great places to start experimenting with explainer videos because you can gather results and feedback quickly. You can also create explainer videos that speak to people in different parts of the customer journey and target them appropriately.

For example, you could create really simple explainer videos to use in social ads, targeting people who don’t have an existing relationship with your company. Or, you could use remarketing targeting options to share explainer videos that address specific common questions about a product with someone who visited a page about that product or abandoned it in an online shopping cart.

On your owned channels, people already know a little bit about you, so you can showcase specific product benefits, or use explainer videos to further establish your reputation as an expert in your niche.

Crowdfunding Sites and Campaigns

No crowdfunding campaign is complete without a good explainer video. When you’re selling a product that doesn’t exist yet, you really need to make the value of the benefits clear.

Kickstarter itself says, “Make a compelling video. It’s the best way to introduce yourself, and to give people a closer look at what you’re working on.”

Conferences, Presentations, and Events

Don’t think that you have to use explainer videos exclusively online. A short explainer video can provide an effective and attention-grabbing introduction for a presentation and draw your audience in before you even start to speak.

At trade shows, a simple explainer video running on a loop at your booth can be a great way of explaining your brand or your products to more people than you could possibly speak to throughout the day.

Types of Explainer Videos

There are many different explainer video styles. Here are some of the most popular.

Animated Explainer Video

Animated explainer videos can use characters (a.k.a. “character animation”), simple object animation (a.k.a. “motion graphics”), or even animated text to tell a compelling story. Animated characters can be a great way to connect with an audience, while object animation can help demonstrate a complex process in a simple way.

Motion graphics can also work well to illustrate number and statistics, for example, using charts and graphs that show motion or change and are therefore more compelling than still images.

Learn From the Pros

Mango Languages, a company that offers a language learning platform, made this engaging animated explainer video to quickly describe what they do.

Whiteboard Explainer Video

In a whiteboard explainer video (sometimes called “video scribing”) a person, animated person, or simply a hand draws and writes on a white background to illustrate the points stated in the narration.

Psychologist Dr. Richard Wiseman conducted an experiment in which he found that people retained 15% more information after watching a whiteboard explainer video than they did after watching a “talking head” explainer video in which a person spoke into the camera. People who saw the whiteboard explainer video were also 66% more likely to share the animation with others.

Learn From the Pros

Dr. Wiseman teamed up with Cognitive Media to create this whiteboard explainer video for his experiment.

Live Action Explainer Video

A live action video is simply a video shot on a camera, rather than one involving animation. The most simple explainer videos could simply involve a person standing and talking to a camera. In most cases, though, this is not going to be very compelling. Better uses of live action explainer videos include demonstrating a process or walking through a behind-the-scenes area.

Learn From the Pros

Content experience platform Uberflip takes the cake on creativity with their live action explainer video, which takes the concept of “explain it to me like I’m…” and runs with it—to hilarious results.

How to Make an Explainer Video

Here’s a simple process for how to make your own explainer video:

  1. Determine the goal of the video. This impacts what style you’ll choose and what channels you’ll use.
  2. Write your script. Focus on one or two key messages, and end with a strong call to action. Don’t try to do too much.
  3. Storyboard your video to make sure your script lines up with the images you want to use.
  4. Practice!
  5. Record your video, or record your narration and create your animation.
  6. Edit it all together and start sharing.

We get into more detail on how this all works in the explainer video best practices below.

5 Explainer Video Best Practices

So, what makes a good explainer video stand out from the rest?

1. Focus on Your Audience

It can be easy to get caught up in showcasing the features of your product or service. But remember that you’re not making this explainer video for yourself or your colleagues. Rather than explain how great your product is, you need to show your audience how your product or service can help them solve problems or generally make their lives easier. Here are some key questions to ask yourself:

  • Who is your audience? If you don’t know who you’re targeting, you can’t speak to them effectively. Keep in mind that the audience for a specific video might not be the same as your entire target market.
  • What are their pain points? What is the problem that your product or service is designed to solve?
  • How can you help? Make it clear how your product or service helps address those pain points.
  • What do you want the audience to do next? Do you want viewers to subscribe to your newsletter? Sign up for a free trial? Visit your website? This is your CTA.

2. Start Strong

You’ve got to draw viewers in right away, so don’t take your time building up to your point. Start with a strong statement of their pain points so they can start to identify with your messaging right off the top. Draw viewers in right away by addressing them directly using words like “you” and “your.”

3. Keep it Short

While you don’t want your explainer video to be boring, its main purpose is to inform, not to entertain. It’s generally a good idea to keep your video under two minutes long, or even shorter if it’s a relatively simple concept.

After all, the more information you give people at once, the more they’re likely to forget. Focus on one or two key takeaways to maximize retention, and don’t forget to end with a clear CTA.

4. Use a Good Explainer Video Script

Tell a compelling story, always keeping your audience’s needs in mind. You might be tempted to dive straight into the more exciting work of video production, but the script is what will determine how effective your explainer video will be.

Make sure to answer all of the audience questions mentioned above, and that one golden question all marketers must answer from the potential customer’s perspective: “What’s in it for me?”

It can be helpful to have someone who doesn’t already understand the concept you’re trying to explain look at your script. This will help ensure you’re not making any assumptions that will confuse viewers during your explanation.

5. Provide Strong Narration

Think about what kind of voice makes sense to use with your video. To get a sense of how different styles of narration can change the effect of a video, think about a commercial for a monster truck rally versus those credit card commercials Morgan Freeman narrates during the Olympics. Both are strong male voices, but they convey a completely different energy.

Think about whether a male or female voice makes sense for your audience. What about the age of the voice? The tone? The voice you choose doesn’t need to share the same demographics as your target audience, but it should be a voice that they will find appealing and clear.

7 of the Best Explainer Videos

Let’s look at some great examples of explainer videos so you can see these principles in action.

1. Headspace

It’s cute, informative, and friendly, with a clear call to action.

2. Jostle

This animated explainer video uses fun graphics paired with compelling narration.

3. Tattoodo

This quick live action explainer delivers the brand promise in just 14 seconds.

4. Fender Play

This explainer shows a service in action and ends with a strong CTA.

5. Influitive

This explainer video uses humor to explain an important concept, then ends with some low-commitment calls-to-action to build the customer relationship.

6. Capital One

This fun animation shows that explainers can make even the driest topics engaging.

7. SnackNation

Healthy snack delivery service SnackNation shows it knows its target audience and their pain points in this fun, relatable live-action explainer video.

Planning on making an explainer video of your own? Vidyard can help you share it with the world.

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Get the Explainer Videos Checklist checklist graphic Ready to make an explainer video? This list covers all the things you need to know to get it right. Get the List
Christina Newberry

Christina Newberry

Christina Newberry is an award-winning writer and editor whose greatest passions include food, travel, urban gardening, and the Oxford comma—not necessarily in that order.

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