Excellent Explainer Videos & How To Choose Your Format (A Guide)


It seems explainer videos are everywhere these days, and with good reason – inspirational explainer videos are one of the most effective ways to communicate with your target market because it addresses their pain points rather than punting the features, benefits and unique selling points of your company’s products or services. If you want 2019 to be the year that you really connect with your consumers in a tangible, sustainable way, crafting an excellent explainer video should be at the top of your list. Here’s why.


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Before 1990, there were only 8 different channels that targeted consumers – events, direct fax (remember that?), direct mail, telephone, TV, radio, print and display. In the 1990s, this grew to include email, satellite TV, websites, search and online display.

Then it just exploded, as the reach of the internet and mobile technology grew to include everything from microsites and webinars, to mobile email, SMS, blogs, podcasts, social networks, instant messaging services and more. It’s a jungle out there, and if you’re a consumer in this time of over-saturation, it’s pretty noisy.


A recent report shows that there are now 21-million Facebook users in South Africa, representing 28% of the population. This is up from 19-million users a year ago. The use of Instagram also grew massively among South African users in the past year – an enormous 73%, from 3.8-million to 6.6-million. The users of this exciting new tech landscape have had to adapt by learning to block out a barrage of marketing messages that don’t speak to them in an authentic way.

Which begs the question, how do you ensure that your marketing message is of the type that they will seek it out rather than ignore it? In many cases, the answer is a beautifully-crafted explainer video.

Here’s a concise guide to inspirational explainer videos and how to choose your format:


What on earth are explainer videos?


First things first, let’s define the term. An explainer video is a short, animated video that describes a company, product or service in a clear, concise and sometimes quirky manner, so the viewer walks away with a thorough understanding of the most important aspects of ‘the what’ and ‘the how’, without any of the jargon or waffle! Its most conventional use is to position a new or reimagined product in a way that communicates the challenge that the company, service or product helps its customers to solve.


Why it’s important to keep explainer videos short and snappy


The sweet spot for the duration of explainer videos lies somewhere between 45 and 90 seconds. As soon as you go over 90 seconds, your viewers potentially get bored, and anything shorter than 45 seconds really boxes you in in terms of what you are able to convey.


The best piece of advice we can give you is to stick to one message or business benefit. Trying to adequately convey more than one clear point will dilute the effect of the content and leave your viewers confused. Choose your message and build the rest of the explainer video content around that core idea to amplify its effect.




How does the process work? How do I get started on explainer videos?


The basic components that are interwoven to create an explainer video include a script, storyboard, voiceover, sound effects, background music and animation. Here are a few important steps that form part of the production process of explainer videos:


1. Getting to grips with your audience. Going in blind is never a good idea when you’re crafting marketing collateral. Keeping things vague and general may seem like a good way to broaden your reach, but in reality you’re more likely to end up speaking to no-one in particular and missing the mark. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience, their world and their challenges, so you can craft content that resonates with them.


2. Sitting down with your script. If you’re shooting for the 60-second mark, you’ll have a maximum of 180 words at your disposal to get your message across. Choose these words carefully and keep working at it until every sentence moves you towards your ultimate goal. Make sure your script is woven around a powerful storyline (metaphors work really well) that acts as the golden thread and ties everything together. Stories speak to our right brain which is where our decision-making faculties lie.


TOP TIP: Always remember that the first 8 seconds of any given video is the most important – this is the time you have to convince a viewer that it’s worth their while to keep watching, so make sure you use it well!


3. Mocking it up. This is when things start to get exciting! During the mock-up phase, you will work with your explainer video team to choose a style and/or create your characters. You will have to decide whether you’ll go for example for 2D or 3D animation, whiteboard, kinetic, infographic, stop-frame, or a combination of a few of these.


4. Creating the storyboard. Your script will become the voice over, and the storyboard is the thing that brings your message to life, prior to animation. Essentially, a storyboard is the master plan or visual blueprint that shows which shots will be used, how it will transition and what kind of motion will be involved. This will become the basis on which animation, VO, music, SFX and illustrations are added later down the line.


TOP TIP: When you start working on a storyboard, see it as a work in progress. It is best not to be precious about the content, since it is likely to change multiple times before the entire team who is working on it will be 100% satisfied. This team would be made up of a creative director, designers and animators, and the client who commissions the explainer video of course!


5. Recording the VO. The VO, or voice over, is the spoken message that will run concurrently with the visuals that underpin your narrative. As soon as your script is finalised, a voice actor can get started on the recording of the VO. Most production companies have access to a variety of seasoned voice actors, so you should have your pick of voices. Generally, you should be able to choose based on gender, ethnicity, age, style, experience.


TOP TIP: Some voice artists have their own studios which can save you money, but it is always advisable to use a studio with a voice director to ensure the best quality.


6. Animating your message. Next up, it’s animation time! By now, most of the individual visual elements will be in place, and it’s time to weave it all together by adding motion. This part of an explainer video project is likely to take the longest. The style/s you chose in the mock-up phase will now be used to bring the explainer video to life.


7. Adding sound effects and music. Music is a crucial component when it comes to setting the right mood. Sure, your on-screen characters can convey emotion, but the music you choose will lead your audience – it will either put them in a purchasing mood or it won’t. Sound effects will then be added to galvanise the overall style (e.g. quirky or serious). In certain instances, an explainer video team might also suggest that you add subtitles to emphasise your message or to make the video accessible for viewers who speak other languages.


TOP TIP: When adding background music to an explainer video, always remember that music is intellectual property and that you will need to get the right licenses to use it. To start out with, you have to make sure that you have the rights to download it. Licencing models are either subject to royalties, or royalty-free. Royalty-free music only requires a once-off purchasing fee, while music that is subject to royalties will require that you pay for the continued use of the copyrighted material of composer, songwriter or recording company.


If you are using explainer videos for internal purposes only, i.e. out of the public accessibility domain, the general rule is that there are no rules – you have the freedom to use the sound track you want, without paying usage rights.


How to choose an explainer video company


Once you start looking for an explainer video company online, you will find that there are countless South African businesses out there that offer this service. Here are a few ways to narrow down your options:


• Know your budget and find a company that can deliver within those perimeters.

• Make sure that the team you choose to collaborate with has a solid track record in creating explainer videos. Also check out their customer references.

• Scour those show reels – check their style and ask them to tell you more about their best 2019 explainer videos.




How to budget for your explainer videos?


Producing a professionally animated explainer video with a seasoned studio can cost anywhere between R30 000 and R250 000, depending on the nature of the content you want to create and the visual execution style. The price will be influenced by factors like production hours, visual execution, level of expertise of the team working on your video, location, hardware, software and more.
Choosing how much you are willing to spend on an explainer video is a very personal thing, and should be based on the scale of your business. Don’t overextend yourself. Discuss your options with the production company you choose and work together with their team to streamline costs as much as possible.


What types of explainer videos are there?


Truly inspiring explainer videos combine creative design, storytelling and marketing acumen. As such, the style and functionality of your content should be chosen based on your desired outcomes. Here are a few of the most commonly-used animation and visual techniques:


Whiteboard animation explainer videos. These black-on-white videos are focussed on the content and make for a great educational style. Their main advantage is that they’re straight-forward and generally the most cost-effective option available. Also worth considering is that these days, there are many things to bear in mind when you’re trying to be sensitive and politically correct, and this simple style goes a long way to keep things on an even keel. The only downside to this style is that many companies are using it, which means there is a lower chance of your video looking unique. If that is not an issue for you, then this is a style worth considering.

2D and 3D animation explainer videos. 2D and 3D animation allow you to fit a lot of information into a short amount of time. Clients want to see your vision clearly before they make a purchase decision, and both 2D and 3D animation are great for that. 2D is the most popular animation style. It is versatile and still reasonably cost-effective. If you’re looking for a more realistic or ‘bells and whistles’ look and feel, 3D is the route to go. It is far more expensive though – so just bear this in mind.

Motion graphics animation explainer videos. Motion graphics are very fluid and will keep your viewer engaged by whisking them from one essential component of your message to the next without skipping a beat – a great approach for short and snappy explainers with attitude!

• Stop-frame animation explainer videos. This versatile style is thought-provoking and inspiring, and videos that feature stop-motion are often shared widely due to their creative slant and superb execution. They are time consuming to create, however, so be aware that this comes at a price.

• Live action video explainer videos. The best live action explainer videos are based on really thorough market research that allows the production team to tap into real-life scenarios that speak to the needs and preferences of a very specific market. It can be a little tricky to find the golden thread, but when you’re working with a professional video production company they will lead the way.


Why an explainer video is a great marketing tool?


If you’re still wondering whether an explainer video is the right fit for your marketing message, here are a few things to consider:

• The explainer video allows you to deliver information in a better, faster format that is more easily consumed and retained by your target audience.


• the explainer video will be suitable for use on just about any given digital platform.


• With the explainer video You will be able to track your return on investment very closely by keeping tabs on online traction and conversion.


• An explainer video is a living elevator pitch on your website, so your company or product is selling itself while you sleep!


• Your explainer video will slot into any digital marketing campaign with absolute ease.


• You can use it to build brand trust by formulating its constituent components to engage your target audience.


• You can use it off-line in presentations and at conferences and exhibitions as a killer sales tool.


The great thing is that regardless of your sales teams’ presentation skills, a powerful explainer can do the talking by consistently delivering one message, regardless of who is presenting.


The key takeaway?


Video-based content engages viewers quickly and can improve their understanding of any given topic by more than 70%. By combining elements of storytelling, infographics, data visualisation, animation, metaphors and dynamic visual effects, an explainer video drives a message home in a far shorter amount of time, which is exactly what you want when you need to communicate something important but also don’t want to bore your target demographic to tears while doing so.


There you have it – a short and sweet guide to crafting excellent explainer videos and how to choose the format that is most suitable to your target audience. For more information on inspirational explainer videos and how the HolyCow team can assist you in creating a gorgeous piece of customer-centric content that speaks directly to those all-important pain points, feel free to get in touch.


Our team of explainer video experts will happily evaluate your needs and give you some insight into our methodology. We look forward to learning more about your business and discussing your explainer videos’ requirements.

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