Explained: A Marketer’s Guide to Explainer Videos

Learn what makes a good explainer video and how to make one for your business.

February 2, 2023

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Lisa Marinelli


Uncover data and insights in the 2024 State of Video Report about video strategy, creation, distribution, and audience engagement and conversion that’ll help your business thrive with video.

So you want to make an awesome video advertisement to showcase your brand — but not just any old video ad. You need a compelling marketing video that explains your product and your company while engaging viewers from start to finish.

That’s where explainer videos come in.

You might be wondering, “What exactly is an explainer video?” or “How do I make an explainer video?”

Well, you’re in luck. We’ve partnered with Claude, our friend and B2B video expert, to explain, well, how to make a great explainer video.

Let’s get to explaining!

What is an explainer video?

An explainer video is a one- to two-minute video that explains how your product works and why it’s the right solution for your audience. In short, it’s a friendly pitch for your product.

A successful explainer video opens with a problem — one shared by a lot of people in your industry. Next, the video introduces your product as the solution to the problem and then showcases how it works. Finally, it wraps up with a call to action (CTA) that invites folks to learn more about the product, buy it or sign up for a free trial, or do something else that makes sense in their customer journey.

When you set out to make an explainer video, you have several different styles to choose from:

  • Screencast with voice-over: A recording of a computer screen paired with a narration
  • Live action: Real people and settings captured on video
  • Animation: Moving graphics or characters created digitally
  • Whiteboard: A hand sketching illustrations on a whiteboard in real time

You can choose where to post your explainer video. Put it on your homepage, a paid landing page, a product overview page, as a video ad, or on social media. Pick a spot where people will most likely watch and engage with it.

5 benefits of product explainer videos

Explainer videos help make a great first impression by simplifying complex details about your product and humanizing your brand. But there are even more benefits to creating explainer videos. Take a look:

1. Clear product positioning

Explainer videos are a time-tested format to communicate a product message. Even some of the earliest advertisements used this straightforward approach: Identify an issue and present the product as the solution, all while maintaining viewer engagement. The secret to these ads’ success? Crystal-clear product positioning.

Use your explainer video to see which messages and value propositions really click with your target audience. Try split-testing to find out which parts of the video grab the most attention. This helps you identify your product’s strongest points and highlight them in your other content.

2. Increased engagement on key product pages

When visitors land on your page and can’t grasp what you’re offering, they quickly skedaddle. This often leads to high bounce and exit rates. You can change that with a great explainer video!

An entertaining overview of your product will capture visitors’ attention and they’ll walk away knowing more about your brand and its products or services — making them more likely to become customers.

Use your explainer video to generate leads! With Wistia, you can add an email collection form to your videos and easily drive qualified leads to your favorite marketing tool.

3. Improved word of mouth

When folks watch something they love, they want to share it with their network. That’s the beauty of word of mouth marketing. If done right, explainer videos can tap into this by being engaging and clear about what your product does and the problem it solves.

And when someone watches your video because a friend or colleague shared it? That’s not just marketing. That’s a personal endorsement — and a powerful way to spread the word about your brand!

Explainer videos can enhance your search engine optimization (SEO) and pull in more traffic. With a video on your site, you’ve got a shot at ranking in video search — and you can showcase your product without requiring folks to visit your site. Plus, video snippets can boost rankings for landing pages, product pages, and more and direct even more traffic your way.

5. Stronger brand identity

Explainer videos are often someone’s first experience with your brand, so they’re the perfect way to spotlight who you are while presenting a solution to your audience’s pain point.

You want your video to do more than just explaining your product. You also want to give a sneak peek into your brand and make it more relatable and memorable. The best way to do this is to incorporate the right colors, music, tone, and other elements that hone in on the essence of who you are.

Visit Wistia’s library of free downloadable assets for music tracks, video overlays, and more assets to help capture your brand in every video.

4 tips for creating impactful explainer videos

An explainer video isn’t just a one-hit wonder; it’s evergreen content that keeps on giving. We’ve got some tips to help you create an explainer video that will keep shining long after you’ve made it:

1. Keep it between 1–2 minutes

You want to keep the length of your explainer video relatively short to get your message across while keeping folks interested until the very end. The sweet spot is one to two minutes. Any less than 30 seconds and the video feels like a TV commercial. More than two minutes and your audience will likely lose interest.

Keep your script under 250 words. Be sure to focus on the key points and consider wrapping up with a CTA that sends viewers someplace where they can get more information.

2. Keep the script concise and conversational

As you write your script, think about how your brand would talk about the problem you’re presenting and how your product solves it. Write in a conversational tone. Too much jargon can do more to alienate your audience than connect with them.

Got writer’s block? Use this ChatGPT prompt we put together for explainer videos!

If you’re worried the script sounds too formal, consider reading it out loud. It’ll help you find spots that need a casual touch. Since you’re writing for a video, keep the visuals in mind. Try to use words or phrases that lend themselves well to specific visuals.

3. Craft your story around the user’s main problem

A typical explainer video is broken up into four story beats (or structural elements):

I. Open with a common problem

During the first 20ish seconds of the video, identify who the core customer is and the problem your product can solve for them.

If your product solves multiple problems, devote a bit more screen time to broaching those topics, but don’t get stuck in the weeds. The goal is to paint a relatable picture of the problem your customers are facing.

II. Introduce your solution

Next, introduce the solution, which is your product!

You’ll explain what your product does in just a few words. If your product does a bunch of things, don’t stress too much. Summarize your solution in one succinct sentence and consider adding some brand flair.

III. Show how it works

You should be about 30 seconds into the video by this point. Now, it’s time to talk about the benefits of your product or service.

Here’s where you’ll establish your product or service as the answer to potential customers’ problems. Walk through how your product solves the problem step-by-step all while focusing on the benefits.

IV. Close with a clear call to action

Finally, bring your explainer video home with a clear and straightforward ending. For example, you could show your customers happily living in a world where they use your product. If you have a slogan, now’s the time to say it!

When you’re wrapping things up, give viewers a CTA. Whether the next step is signing up for a free trial, entering their email to get in touch, or whatever else that makes sense in the customer journey, be clear and drive people toward it.

With Wistia’s Call to Action feature, you can insert a clickable message, image, or HTML script anywhere in your video.

And that’s it! These are the four blocks you need to build the perfect explainer video.

4. Show off your brand values

Your brand values are the unique beliefs and principles that drive your business, distinguishing you from competitors and resonating with like-minded customers. They’re the special sauce that makes your brand uniquely “you” in a sea of options.

Keep your brand values and how your product captures them at the forefront of the creative planning stage of the explainer video production process. Don’t try to reach too large an audience — doing so runs the risk of not getting to the right audience. Think about the intersection between your brand values and what matters to your specific audience and then go from there.

3 great explainer ad examples

Seeking creative inspiration? Look no further than these successful explainer videos:

1. Narrator-led explainer video

When your product or service isn’t tangible, you can use a voice-over to articulate the benefits of your product while showcasing the experience on screen.

MarketScale does this pretty well in their explainer video. Take a look:

Right off the bat, the speaker poses the problem of how it’s more complicated than ever for B2B marketers to reach prospects during the pandemic. Then the narrator explains how MarketScale can help B2B companies grow their audience.

The voice-over clearly describes how MarketScale helps build media channels for brands while the video displays this in a visual way.

2. Graphic-led explainer video

If your business is in the software as a service (SaaS) space, consider partnering with a freelance animator to create an animated explainer video. With motion graphics, 3D animation, hand-drawn animation, or whiteboard animation, you can easily highlight the experience people will have while using your product.

To see what we’re talking about, check out Zendesk’s animated explainer video:

The animation style is clean, and the visuals of the user experience show how Zendesk will help your team become more efficient and organized.

Viewers walk away understanding how Zendesk is an outstanding customer service solution with everything they need to help customers all in one place.

3. Character-led explainer video

Featuring actual people in your explainer videos can help potential customers feel connected to your brand and visualize themselves using your product or service.

We love the approach BambooHR took in their explainer video. They had their own employees give an overview of the BambooHR platform and explain why it stands out in an ocean of human resources (HR) tech. Give it a watch:

They even introduce their project manager, Anna, their graphic designer, Lahvjal, and a handful of others. This personal touch not only humanizes their brand but also aligns perfectly with their core product.

Wistia: Video software for creating expert explainer videos

We hope we’ve helped you unlock the secrets you need to know to create the perfect explainer video for your business.

Whether you want to use voice-over, animation, or live action — or mix and match different styles — an explainer video is an invaluable investment that you can use across multiple marketing channels and campaigns.

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to go out there and nail your first explainer video!

Lisa Marinelli


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