As startups and big brands alike have become more invested in online video marketing, the animated explainer video has emerged as a staple on websites across all industries.
Typically 60-90 seconds long, explainer videos have the common-folk appeal of a buddy telling you about a great new product he just discovered.
They commonly feature an unseen narrator speaking over screenshots, animated characters, charts, and other images to explain a company’s offering in a visually engaging way that written content can’t.
When done well, explainer videos can be extremely effective, increasing conversion rates by anywhere from 15 to 75 percent.1 But just like buddies, some explainer videos are better at telling stories than others.
Recently, we created an explainer video for Austin-based startup RealMassive, a commercial real estate website (think Zillow for commercial real estate).
Here are a few key steps we took in order to make our video as engaging and exciting as possible, starting with a clear content strategy.
Five Steps for Writing an Exciting Explainer Video:
1. Identify the persona(s)
Before you start talking, figure out who you’re talking to. Do you have one audience for the video? Multiple? If multiple, should you create separate videos for each, or is there a way to include all the personas in one video?
For the RealMassive explainer video, we knew we needed to address three groups of individuals—business owners, tenant representatives, and property managers. We created a character to represent each group in order to show the pain points that each experiences and how those frustrations affect the characters’ dealings with each other.
2. Pick a relevant, creative theme
The CEO of RealMassive wanted to convey that commercial real estate is still done the old-fashioned way, and RealMassive will bring it into the modern age by placing commercial real estate data online in a collaborative, cloud-based environment.
To convey that theme, we mimicked the style of a 1950s newsreel or World’s Fair intro film, seguing into a more colorful, modern look when RealMassive enters the story. We felt this thematic choice would allow the script to carry a “cheekiness” that people could engage with, enjoy, and share.
3. Tell a story
Sometimes the best way to explain what a product does is to show a scenario where it’s being used (or should be used). For RealMassive, it was important to point out the pain points that existed in the current industry before explaining how the company’s service would solve them. This led to our decision to tell a relatable story about a typical transaction among the players in the commercial real estate industry, where it would be apparent that things weren’t going as smoothly as they could, given the benefits of modern technology.
4. Write for visuals
If you write the script without specific visuals in mind, you’ll find yourself scrambling when it comes time to animate. Ideally, you’ll have visuals that complement rather than mirror the narration. Even more ideally, they’ll do so in a funny (or at least entertaining) way.
For example, rather than just showing Andy working in a crowded room for the entirety of his segment, we had characters pop in absurdly, crowding him, as he sits at his desk for days, with the sun rising and setting behind him, the camera pushing in slowly before ending on a desperate facial expression. Meanwhile, Cindy rushes back and forth between her printer and her desk, papers flying around her, before one lands on her head to highlight her exasperation.
If you aren’t animating the video yourself, you’ll have to provide these kinds of detailed instructions to the animator, so it’s important to picture the video’s visual content as you write. Our director created a complete animatic (moving storyboard) of the video’s events to help the animator hit the story beats.
A “quick and dirty” animatic like the one above allows our director to share his vision with the client and get an approval on all the explainer video style and timing before spending the effort on animating the final version.
5. Get feedback & adjust
The fifth and final step is to share the script with a few people you trust, ideally a couple of whom aren’t familiar with the details of your business. After watching the video… Do they understand the information? Does it tell the whole story without getting bogged down in details? Would they be able to explain what you do to someone else after watching the video?
And finally, did it make them laugh? Smile? Is it worthy of the many hours of work you’ve put into your business’ mission and message?
By keeping these lessons in mind, your explainer videos will be more targeted, more entertaining, and bring larger returns on your marketing investment.
Dreamtown Creative offers affordable strategy, writing, direction, and animation of custom explainer videos that tell your company’s story in an exciting and engaging way.