Explainer videos. They’re all the rage in the marketing world these days. They present a way for businesses, organizations, and educators to clearly articulate an idea or tell a story.
Sometimes it’s explaining a product. Sometimes it’s explaining a company. Sometimes it’s explaining a concept.
They typically feature animation that serves to enhance the narration or tell a story all on it’s own. There’s tons of different styles, from classic 2-d line drawing, to motion graphics, to claymation (or computer generated fake claymation), to 3d animation, to whiteboard-style animations. The style depends on what kind of message you’re trying to deliver, and who you’re trying to reach.
The subject matter can range from narrative storytelling, to totally abstract and entirely functional. The good ones try to make it feel like they’re not trying to sell you something. The best ones succeed.
Here at SquareShip, we’ve curated 10 of our favourite explainer videos, and we’ll tell you why. In no particular order …
Slack (Giant Ant)
This animation is a great example of a company telling its story to the consumer – all without uttering a word. The animation is doing all the heavy lifting here – telling a “before and after” story that effectively pitches the utility of the Slack app. The colour scheme and style of the animation is based on the Slack app logo – which is great if you care about things like making sure you’re “on brand.”
HubSpot – What is Artificial Intelligence (or Machine Learning)
This is a great example of the strengths of the “explainer video” format. It’s taking a topic that’s complicated and abstract, and through a combination of narration and animation, makes it simple and easy to understand. The narrator and animators play to their strengths and trade off on doing the heavy lifting, because some concepts are easier to explain visually, and some are not. They also use readily available real world examples. They also manage to educate and inform, and don’t give away that HubSpot is a company with a direct stake in the AI field. No one likes to think they’re being sold a bill of goods.
Ethical Coffee Chain
Here’s another video where the style is somewhat abstract, but they’re using it to get a message across. The style is informative, but doesn’t lose playfulness, and the relative simplicity allows us to focus on the message itself. By the end, I was convinced I should be buying my coffee with Ethical Coffee Co – which means this video achieved it’s number one goal – I clicked through to the company’s website because I wanted to learn more.
Here’s another one where a company manages to pitch itself in a friendly way. The folksy music (courtesy of Willie Nelson), emphasis on the ‘natural’ as opposed to the technological, and the cute, claymation-y style all really help sell the message of a company that’s empathetic, friendly, and approachable. Not bad for a global corporation worth 1.4 billion dollars.
How Deep is the Ocean (Tech Insider)
This is a great example of the more purely educational format of explainer
videos. They’re not trying to sell us anything – they’re trying to educate and entertain.
The style is simple, with bright colours and clear shapes, and the animation isn’t terribly complex or dynamic – but it doesn’t have to be. The art is clear and representational because imparting information is more important than being flashy. And the information in the video is jaw-dropping enough all on its own.
This video hits you with a one-two punch. The first half presents a problem we’re all
aware of – texting while driving – and hammers home just how harmful it can be. We’re
emotionally engaged – both by the content, and the cutesy down-to-earth animation – and then the video shows us the answer. Now, while it might not be the best answer – an app that gameifies not answering your phone – it’s a compelling way to get eyeballs on your product.
Come on – you knew we were going to include one of our own here, right? This animation takes a very different approach to the last one – because we’re dealing with data storage, it makes more sense to adopt a colourful but abstract style. That way, we can visualize technical concepts in a way that makes them easy to understand – and incorporating elements of motion graphics animation keeps things visually interesting. The last thing you want is for someone to get bored and x out of your video … say, where are you going?
This video from Crazy Egg is in a much more motion-graphic-y style, because showing, not telling. They get much more realistic, because they want to clearly visualize how their app works. Obviously, the target audience here is a business audience – potential buyers of Crazy Egg’s software – so they’re targeting those people with simple and effective messaging – here’s how WE will work for YOU.
This video had the whole marketing world buzzing. It’s a great example of the
educational and marketing uses of the explainer video format. It’s style is largely freeform, taking the best elements of abstraction and motion graphics to clearly visualize why this app is going to save you time and money. The narration in this video is simple and utilitarian – it just tells you what the app is going to do for you. By the end, I was halfway convinced, which is more than I can say for most advertisements.