The Most Important Aspects of a Great Explainer Video
Quality video is important for branding and image, but the most important aspects aren’t in the visuals.
Don’t get us wrong, we love making gorgeous animated videos.
Related: 5 HUGE Benefits of Explainer Videos
That said, we don’t move forward in the production process until we have a sound understanding of:
The brand (and brand story) we are representing in said explainer video.
The product/service/message we are going to be explaining.
The customer/audience in which we will be speaking.
The incredibly short script that we derive from all of these things.
After we grasp these things, and only then, do we begin to talk about the visual concepts that will help to tell the story we’ve come to know (and love).
If you’re in marketing or at an executive level of business, you understand the value of copywriting.
The art of using a headline, a short paragraph, or even a long sales letter to help convince those who are right for your offerings to buy (or take the next step). It’s also an effective way to lose those who won’t be the right fit for your company (saving trouble down the road).
Again, you know this.
What are the most important aspects of good copy? The same things that are important to good explainer videos.
Sure, you may worry about page layout, fonts, and visual elements eventually—but it’s the words that compel. Those crazy arrows and “handwritten” elements didn’t sell tons of downloadable content back in the early 2000’s.
It was the story.
That’s why we are going to dig deep into the two areas of an explainer video that have to be in place before you think about visuals—Script and Story.
Here we go.
Disclaimer: We love, love, love high quality video. It’s all we want to put out. This isn’t a push for having an awesome script with terrible music and crudely drawn stick figures. Rather it’s to point out that many freelancers, DIY tools, and even some production houses push their graphics over their ability to sell the message.
The Broad and the Immediate Message
“I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.”— Blaise Pascal
There are two (broad) questions that must be answered before you can get to the point of writing a script for your explainer:
What do you want your brand to say to the world?
What do you want your explainer video to say to its target audience?
If you don’t know the answer to number one, that’s a big problem.
While we are assuming that you know who your customers are, we’ve included a few excellent resources that will help you narrow down or create a brand message.
Know Thy Audience: A great read that oozes value. It’s an overview of the basics involved in figuring out who your target audience is in terms of your overall business model.
Brand Messaging That Resonates: From the fine people at SalesForce. Insightful, useful, and not too long.
Whip Your Brand Message into Shape: You are saying something, but it may need an overhaul. This anecdotal post won’t sting too bad, but should inspire you.
Once you have your ideal and target personas in mind, you can mash that up with the message you want conveyed in your explainer video (i.e. that second question).
The video you want could be to tell that brand story. It could be made for a segment of your audience, leads in a certain stage of the sales funnel, or to generate awareness for an initiative that you have coming down the pipe.
No matter what you want to say, it should resonate with your audience and reflect that brand message.
Example: In the SalesForce post we linked to above, it mentions several key slogans from monster brands. We’ll use Subway’s “Eat Fresh”.
In the video below, they’ve targeted athletes by using famous Olympians and other well-known athletic stars.
This message is short, powerful and highly targeted—yet perfectly in line with their core message to “eat fresh”.
It’s vitally important that your brand’s message, at least, doesn’t conflict with any of your marketing. In fact, it should reinforce and give potential and current customers a look at your consistency.
Subway has cookies and soda, but you don’t see them advertising things such as $1 drinks like McDonald’s.
In the words of this post at Kissmetrics, “A well written script is the key to a successful explainer video. It’s the foundation upon which everything else is built.”
We wholeheartedly agree.
Do you know how many words you get in 60 seconds of video? Anywhere from 130-160 on average. If your video is that long, you’ll keep about 70% of your watchers till the end. Longer than that and those numbers drop off pretty fast.
That means you can’t waste words.
Shorten your message. Write and rewrite to take away everything that isn’t necessary until you arrive at the potent core of compelling, rich content.
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”—Antione de Saint-Exupery
That, again, takes time.
That core message is the perfect blending of the information your audience resonates with and the point you want to get across. Here are our best pointers:
Learn from the Best: Study good copywriting as well as classic story structure. Three act scripts are still around for a reason. Ensure that you or those you work with are well-versed in storytelling and writing compelling copy.
Open Big (with your point): Make sure you don’t drag on at any point of the video, but get that point across in a noticeable way that makes those who you want to talk to stay and those who aren’t interested go.
Entertain Your Guests: They are watching for their benefit, not yours. You want to tell them something, but it has to be created for them. Losing the image of who you’re talking to will, no doubt, cause fewer people to listen.
Clearly Ask Them for Something: There is no point in creating an explainer video that doesn’t make people want to do something. Even if it’s a video to save the environment, you’d want someone to recycle something—right? Make a clear call to action that moves them toward your intended purpose while not violating your brand message.
The Added Benefit of a Good Message and Script
In life, you live to tell stories. Not the other way around.
Now that your story has been brought to life, you have everything you need to come up with the visuals. Then, you can put those visuals to music and narration making the most compelling explainer possible.
Those very visuals will be easier to create with a clear message. The music you choose will seemingly be made for your script.
Figure out your message. Write your script. Use quality imagery, sound and narration.
Do it all in that order and to the best of your ability and your target will be hit every time.
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