A good explainer video is a secret weapon. It can pull off the eternal challenge of breaking down complex ideas and making them not only understandable but memorable. It can empower companies, organizations, and teams by helping them distill and present their information so that it’s interesting and digestible. Above all else, though, a good explainer video seriously resonates with viewers in an increasingly competitive and distracting digital landscape. That’s practically a magic trick these days.

The Science Behind the Explainer Video

How explainer videos achieve such a promising outcome is more straightforward than you might imagine. They simply deliver information the way humans ideally take it in, simultaneously informing the populace through sight and sound rather than focusing on one or the other.

Here’s a little meta example. You can watch our explainer video on explainer videos to learn why, then jump to the next section. Or you can continue reading below to get the text explanation.

So, how exactly do they work? Words and images are 50% more effective when they’re communicated verbally rather than visually. That may seem surprising, but it’s the way human beings are wired, according to the Dual-Coding Theory. Originally hypothesized by Allan Paivio in 1971, the theory suggests that visual and verbal information are processed so differently that they can work together for a person to absorb and retain information with greater ease and effect.

Such is the case with explainer videos. With voiceover, a viewer uses their visual channel to absorb what’s on screen, while their audio channel synthesizes the information they hear. Complicated concepts get simplified in two different ways, allowing the viewer to comprehend the information as it comes.

An Explainer Video Grabs Attention

In addition to the impact of information, explainer videos also make that impact in less time. The modern attention span is an average of 8 seconds (down from 12 seconds in 2000). For very sad reference, a goldfish’s attention span is 9 seconds. That’s where we’re at as a species. The good news is that consumers crave more video for this reason.

According to a Levels Beyond survey, 59% of consumers say they would watch a brand video on a company site, while 67% like to watch how-to or tutorial videos most.

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51% of millennials and 30% of Baby Boomers say they would rather watch a video than read the same info from a brand.

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Explainer videos are a great way to feed these cravings. You can load up those prospective or existing customers with a tremendous amount of information via a quick and short explainer video. To your audience, explainer videos feel more like entertainment than homework.

Do You Need an Explainer Video?

So, you know explainer videos are a great tool. That said, like every marketing tactic, they’re a great tool if they align with your needs. Before you dive into an explainer video, ask yourself these four questions.

1) What’s your goal?

This may sound like an obvious question, but wanting to explain something isn’t enough. Are you pitching your brand for the first time? Are you showcasing your product or service and how it works? Make sure you have a clear objective that isn’t several missions smushed together in an attempt to achieve everything at once. (An explainer video is not meant to explain everything.)

If your company’s culture, product, service, or business plan can easily be understood in a few basic sentences, you might be better off with that approach. If a tutorial, demonstration, or concept overview is a little more detailed, the explainer video route is a good option.

2) Who are you looking to impress or educate?

Nail down who you’re enlightening with your content by considering your spread of demographics, from gender and region to industry and job level. This helps determine a starting point, so you know how in depth your explainer video terminology and concept can be. Your target audience influences everything you would do in an explainer video: tone, visuals, language, music, you name it. Will this content resonate with them? Will the video catch their attention and leave an impact?

3) What is your story?

If your story is too broad or too simple, an explainer video will not be as effective. How complicated is your story? How well does it flow? How concise is your narrative? If you aim for the shortest and simplest execution of your idea, you can create a great explainer video. Any other avenue will get muddied. Know where the story begins, how the focus of the information should be communicated, and what your CTA will be. These are the elements of a good explainer.

4) What takeaway or action are you after?

Giving your audience a way to pass their time is nice of you, but that’s not why you make an explainer video (or most content marketing assets, really). Why are you explaining this particular concept? What do you hope to give the viewer, and what do you want them to do once they get it? Explainer videos take signficant production effort, so if you don’t have a specific action you hope your viewer will take, you might want to reconsider. If you want to nudge someone in a certain direction or communicate specific information, explainer videos can get the job done.

If you’ve decided that an explainer video is the way to go, read our tips for choosing a video agency to make sure you find the right partner.