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How To Create An Explainer Video

Avatar Jess Ailion | 20.4.21

The world of marketing videos is vast, with tens of different types such as informational videos, launch videos, product demos and explainer videos. In this blog we’ll cover everything you need to know about explainer videos specifically, from our top tips to a step-by-step guide and much more. Whether you’re a global company with a big reputation to boot, or a new startup on the block, an explainer video can soar your conversion rate through the roof. First things first, let’s dive into the question on the tip of your tongues: what is an explainer video?

What is an Explainer Video?

An explainer video is a short marketing video, typically only a couple of minutes long, that explains your brand’s offering to consumers. They commonly appear on a brand’s website homepage, a relevant product page or a landing page. One of the first explainer videos ever used for marketing purposes came from Google Wave, in a distinctly simple style you’re probably already familiar with even if you don’t know it as an explainer video per se.

Google Wave Explainer Video

The story of the birth of the explainer video (in the marketing world) goes as follows. A company called Epipheo made a video explaining (now discontinued) Google Wave using a simple, illustrated visual and an equally simple voiceover. Epipheo did not intentionally make the video for Google. After its release onto YouTube it found its way to the manager of Google Wave, who called up Epipheo and told them “thanks, now my wife understands what I do at work”. You get the gist. 

At the time, Google Wave’s official marketing video was roughly twenty minutes long and featured two developers explaining all of the features and capabilities of the product. Epipheo’s simple two minute video came along and changed the game. 

Epipheo realized that a marketing video shouldn’t just talk about the product features, but should also offer an overall guide that helps people understand the product. Not just how it works, but why it works. What makes it good? The moral of the story is that in order to make a successful explainer video, you should be keeping this same theory in mind. 

Explainer Video Top Tips

1. Keep it simple

Keeping it clear and simple is our number one piece of advice when creating an explainer video. However, to clarify, simple doesn’t have to mean simple graphics. It just means that you should be explaining everything in a simple manner. Find one important message you want to convey to your viewers and build the entire video around it. Don’t overcomplicate the video, otherwise it defeats the purpose. 

The technique itself does not have to be simple, it can have a “wow” factor, so long as the story itself is of a simple and high level. The best part about explainer videos is that you can choose from a diverse array of video styles. You can go for 2D, 3D, live shooting, classic animation, etc. Any technique goes, giving you the opportunity to be super creative beyond the bounds of rules. 

Beyond the concept itself, the language used throughout must also be simple. If you use complicated and technical language, you risk alienating your viewers. That would not be the best way to get people to understand your offering. 

2. Understand the fine details

Before you begin the technical work, you need to understand the details such as ideal video length, structure, etc. There’s no point putting in time and effort for a ten minute long video when an explainer video should be no longer than two minutes in length. That’s the length a user will usually watch a video for before abandoning it. 

3. Let go of preconceptions

It’s important to go through the entire process with an open mind for maximum creativity. What you think your video might end up looking like is often not what it actually ends up looking like. Finished writing your script and think you know what the visuals are going to look like? Let go of that one idea and let your mind explore all of the possibilities. While the audio and visual elements of a video must be synchronized, they must also be viewed as two separate entities. One should not dictate the other, they should both be equally powerful in their own rights. 

4. Use whatever software makes you feel good

At Moburst, we mostly use the Adobe suite to create our explainer videos. Whether that’s Photoshop, After Effects, Illustrator or Premiere, we’re fans of them all for different purposes. We also like using the 3D software Maya too. However, we’re also big believers that it’s not the software that matters when creating an epic explainer video, but that you feel good when creating. Whatever software you’re confident with, unleashes your creativity, and makes you feel good, is the software you should be using. The software is just the tool, your creativity and technical skill are what guide the video to success. 

3. Tone is important

Explainer video scripts should be written in second person, using words like “you” and “your”, to connect with the viewers. It should feel like you’re addressing them directly. Another way to connect with viewers is to keep the tone conversational and humorous. A more formal tone is more likely to alienate them, and one lacking in humor can be boring and unengaging. 

Explainer Video Types

  • Animated Explainer Videos: animation is popularly used to create explainer videos for a reason. It can help strip concepts back and explain them in the most simple manner, or bring to life technology that is intangible and thus impossible to portray using live recordings. The opportunity to inject creativity into animation is endless, and everything can be edited and adjusted along the way making it the perfect choice for dynamic products or services.
  • Live-Action Explainer Videos: the opposite of an animated explainer video, live-action uses “real life” clips to explain your product or service. Where animated explainer videos are the best solution for intangible products, live-action works better for explaining something physical or a human led service. Often when trying to portray your business’s human led service, using real people helps to create an emotional connection for the viewer. 
  • Whiteboard Explainer Videos: as the name indicates, whiteboard explainer videos feature animation that is hand drawn and erased on a whiteboard. They don’t cost much to produce and allow for the simple explanation of pretty much anything, making them another popular choice. The Google Wave video mentioned earlier is the perfect example of a Whiteboard Explainer Video. Despite what the name suggests, whiteboard explainer videos don’t have to be on a whiteboard only. The same concept of hand drawn animation can be created on different sheets of paper, for example. Instead of erasing the drawing to begin the next, you can just replace the paper. 

Explainer Video Step by Step Guide

1. Identify what you want to say 

The very first step to creating a successful explain video is understanding precisely what it is you want to say. What is the one message you want to build the entire video around? Put yourself in the mind of your viewers. After they’ve finished watching the video, what is the one thing you want them to take away from it? 

Give them that “aha!” moment where they finally understand your product and everything clicks into place. The whole video should be built around that moment of realization, which will inform the video’s entire concept. 

A good technique for identifying your key message is tapping into your target customers pain points in regards to your product or service. Once you know these, you know exactly what to acknowledge in the video. Do they struggle to use a particular feature? Do they get confused by a certain service? Pinpoint their concerns and banish them with the video. 

2. Write and record the narration

Once you’ve done the first step and identified your concept, you usually take that concept and divide it into two: storytelling/ script and the graphic style

Outlining the script requires choosing the narrator or actor’s voice and deciding on a storyline, among many other aspects. 

As soon as those decisions have been made, you can begin the creative process with writing the script. You should write around 240-250 words (maximum 300) that tell your story and convey your main message. A good narration rhythm is usually about two words per second. The script is what carries the video and allows you to best target your audience’s pain points. 

It can be overwhelming to know where to begin when script writing because products and services usually have many different facets. The most important thing to keep in mind is the message you decided on in step one. Beyond that, an explainer video script must include:

  • A short overview of your product or service offering
  • Your main message within the first thirty seconds so that you put your best foot forward before users start to drop off 
  • An introduction to the problem that your product or service solves, followed by your solution
  • The reasons the viewers can trust you, e.g. awards, high profile clients, etc.
  • A call to action, like any other form of marketing you produce

Deciding on the narrator is another important step in the process. Different voices and styles give off entirely different feelings and depend on your company. For example, it might feel weird and alienating to have a male voice narrate the explainer video for a female sanitary product. 

3. Create your storyboard 

Creating a storyboard requires choosing the video’s graphic style, the color scheme, and designing each and every frame of the video. 

Once you’ve written the story, it’s a good idea to erase every visual you have in your head in relation to it, and start from scratch. It can even be worthwhile reading it to someone who’s never heard it before, without any prior knowledge of what you’re trying to convey, and asking them what they believe would be the best visual to work with the steps. This is a great process for identifying the best visuals to accompany the text. 

Any preconceptions you have of what your video will look like when you’re writing the script often go out of the window here. Once the soundwork is perfected and gives you everything you need, you can take the visuals and be as creative and crazy as you want to inject some fun and humor. 

4. Film/ Animate/ Create 

Now it’s time to start creating! If you haven’t already contacted an explainer video company, now’s your time. Their team of expert explainer video makers know what it takes to achieve success. Whether it’s an animated, live-action, whiteboard style or anything in between, they can help you get the video done. It’s not just as simple as filming, animating or creating – these guys know what’s needed to portray your key message clearly and effectively, keep marketing at the forefront, where to place your call to action and many more important factors. 

They’ll not only give you a video that looks and sounds great, but also a video that converts new customers and re-engages existing customers. 

5. Edit

Similarly to above, the editing stage of explainer video production is best left to the experts. This step is just as important for honing in on your main message(s), timing your CTA correctly and injecting the right amount of humor without distracting from the explanation itself. 

6. Music & Mixed Sound

After you’ve edited the visual element of the video and it’s good to go, it’s time to work on the audio. It makes for more complications if you start on the sound before the visual is complete because then there’s going to be double the chopping and changing to keep things synchronized. 

Whether you’re got an animated explainer video, live-action or whiteboard, you’re going to need some epic sound to match. A simple narration usually isn’t enough, the best, most engaging flow will be achieved when there’s added sound effects and background music. 

For example, an animated explainer video will be most engaging when the animations are synched with appropriate sounds. E.g. something falling from the sky can make a ‘whooshing’ noise, and a thump when it lands. 

TikTok has changed the game for explainer videos in 2021. When you imagine a video in your head, do you see it in landscape or portrait? Traditionally, most people would imagine a video in landscape format. TikTok flips this on its head because TikTok videos are portrait. It’s clever because most phone users browse in portrait mode, so offering portrait videos takes up more screen space. And is therefore better for marketing purposes. Which is why it’s an interesting method to adopt even for explainer videos. 

Also, when you’re doing campaigns for TikTok, things have to look raw to fit in. The more professional the video looks, the less likely it is to fit the TikTok aesthetic and be successful. It comes back to the idea of authenticity being key, and the newest generation of consumers don’t trust brand advertising as much as people used to. TikTok is kind of like the Tinder of the video world. You watch a video and decide after two seconds whether you like it or not. If it feels over-produced, or too much like an ad, it’s not what TikTok users like to see. They want real content from real people. User generated content. 

With TikTok’s dramatic influence on the video landscape as a whole, explainer videos are not immune. We’ve seen an increase in explainer videos following in line with TikTok and offering a more user-generated, short-form, snappy vibe. 

FAQs

Are explainer videos effective?

Yes, explainer videos can help your target customers understand your product, why they need it in their life and connect with your product more. They’re typically short, simple and engaging and are one of the best forms of video marketing. They changed the landscape of video marketing to be more reflective of modern consumers, reducing the length and the use of unrelatable jargon for example. As a result, they’re extremely effective. 

How much does an explainer video cost?

Naturally, this depends on a number of factors, meaning there’s no single answer. One thing it depends on is if you’re making the video in-house or hiring a company. While the latter may be more expensive, it can also be more effective, and prices vary between companies. Another factor is the type of explainer video you want. A whiteboard explainer video, for example, usually costs less than a live-action explainer video because less people and equipment go into the production. Explainer video production is diverse, meaning the costs are diverse. However, in our experience, average costs float around the $10,000 benchmark on average. Of course, depending on your budget and expectations, this figure can be a lot lower or higher! 

You should expect to pay anywhere from $5,000 – $20,000. 

How do you make the best explainer video?

By following our tips outlined above, you’re on your way to making the best explainer video for your brand. As explainer video makers ourselves, we know a thing or two about the subject. 

1. Keep it simple and produce the video around one key message
2. Understand the details such as ideal time length before you begin creating
3. Let go of preconceptions and allow your creativity to flow through an open mind
4. Use the software that makes you feel good in your craft
5. Pay attention to tone, it’s important to keep things in second person, conversational and humorous

Should I hire an explainer video company?

In our opinion, you can’t beat the expert guidance, skills and experience of an explainer video company. Explainer video production can be tricky business, but drawing on the experience of those who live and breathe it can only work to your advantage. Explainer video agencies are most likely well equipped to deal with any of your requests and know how to achieve the best results with your budget. At Moburst, we believe in data-driven results, so we will always be able to back our creative decisions with data insights too – meaning your videos will have the best chance of marketing success. 

Final Thoughts

Explainer videos are great for boosting your conversion rate, lowering your churn rate and increasing your return on investment. They also help with brand awareness by increasing your visibility, brand engagement by helping customers understand your product or service, and adding legitimacy to your offering when your video is professionally produced.

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