Explainer videos—they’re everywhere. Why is everyone nuts for them? Because they’re a great tool to tackle the tough task of delivering important information in very little time. For brands, this is a tremendous asset. If you’ve never heard of explainer videos or want to know more about why they’re so effective, we’re here for you.

In this deep dive, we’ll cover what they are, how they work, and how you can put them to work for your brand. But first, let’s start with our quick explainer videos about explainer videos. (See what we did there?)

So, lets start with the basics.


The simplest version: An explainer video is a short, informative video that explains a company, a product, a service, or a concept. It’s not boring. It’s not pretentious. It’s a colorful, fun, and engaging way to communicate information. They are typically between 30 seconds and 3 minutes.


As long as you’re explaining something, it’s an explainer. That said, here are some of the most common uses.

Introductions and Overviews: Explainer videos are a great way to introduce a subject or concept in a succinct way. This might be a quick overview of your product, service, or company. Either way, it’s an easy point of entry for your audience. (This makes them very popular for startups.)

Processes: Explainer videos are a great way to break down a process or idea in an easy-to-understand way. Remember how excited you got when a teacher announced that your “lesson” was just watching a video? The same rule applies here.

Tutorials: No one wants to read a manual or hunt down information. Explainer videos can offer easy demonstrations, step-by-step tutorials, or other lessons. These types of videos are incredibly popular as evidenced by a 2014 Levels Beyond survey, which found that 67% of consumers watch instructional videos.

science-behind-explainer-videosExample: Here’s a Microsoft explainer video that shows how the Bing Search App for Android works.


Explainer video execution depends heavily on its purpose, audience, and budget.

Live Action: Explainer videos featuring real people or real-life demonstrations can be effective to increase relatability. They also give the audience a sense of familiarity, or communicate a lifestyle.

Animated: With animation (e.g., motion graphics), no idea is out of the realm of possibility. If you can articulate it, you can animate it. Without a shooting schedule, set design, actors, and a crew, it’s a more controlled production.

Note: Other visual techniques, such as screen capture, can help with digital or tech demonstrations. If you’re figuring out what type of video your brand should create, learn more about the difference between explainer videos, animated infographics, motion graphics, and viral videos.


Video is a compelling format on its own, but it is especially effective for delivering information because it uses elements that elicit emotional reactions and stimulate processing centers in our brains.


As mentioned in our explainer video on explainer videos, the format is an incredibly effective communication tool from a scientific perspective. This is because we process information through multiple channels, both visually and auditorily.

It all comes down to something called the Dual-Coding Theory. Originally hypothesized by Allan Paivio in 1971, the basic idea is this: Audio and visual channels function individually in the brain. Each can be overwhelmed by an onslaught of information. But, when you present content that relies on both visual and audio channels (e.g., images on screen, accompanied by verbal narration), information is easier to absorb and digest.

Additionally, as psychological researcher Liraz Margalit of Psychology Today notes, our brains process videos 60,000 times faster than text.

“Humans are hardwired to avoid demanding cognitive strain, so this tendency toward “laziness” will, more often than not, invite us to choose information that is easy to process over the form that makes us put out a lot of effort,” Margalit writes.

In short: Put an explainer video in front of your audience, they’ll click.


There is also a strong emotional component to explainer videos when production elements are used to influence the viewer’s experience.

Voice Over: Left to just words on the screen, the viewer may read them with an undesired internal tone. But with a voice over, you have control over the tone you’re setting and the message you want, increasing emotional response.

A human voice is also inherently familiar, thus having a human element reinforces a sense of credibility when it comes to your product, service, or brand itself.

Music: Similar to voice over, music helps manipulate mood. Whether used to set the tone or relied on to enhance story arc, it’s a great storytelling device.

Visuals: Even with Morgan Freeman as your voice over and John Williams in charge of music, your video is most certainly a visual experience. The imagery depicted tells the story in a simple and compelling way. This is another reason why explainers are an excellent vehicle to communicate abstract ideas or complex subjects.

Example: This IJM explainer uses production elements to address everyday violence, a serious subject, and explain the organization’s mission.


More than half your audience is made up of visual learners. According to the Social Science Research Network, it’s about 65% of the population. Hence, video has become increasingly popular. (By 2018, video content will be responsible for 79% of internet traffic.) By delivering content in this format, you’re providing a genuine service to your audience.

Explainers save time: What would you rather sit through: a 2-minute video or a 20-minute presentation? The answer is clear to your audience. According to Levels Beyond, 51% of Millennials would rather watch a video than read the same content. And both Baby Boomers and Millennials watch brand videos on brand sites.

science-behind-explainer-videos-2The added benefit? Delivering your information in this format shows you value your audience’s time. This helps establish a great relationship from the get-go.

The information is easily digestible: If you were delivering a pitch or demonstrating a product in person, you’d encourage your audience to ask questions. But many people are uncomfortable or shy about asking questions or admitting they don’t understand something. With an explainer, your audience learns what they want to know in the easiest, most efficient way. And it’s always there for them to reference.

Additionally, in cases of product demos and the like, you’re also safeguarding your audience from frustrating user errors. Explainers enhance the user experience, positioning your brand as a helpful friend.

The information is accessible from anywhere: Video is great for mobile viewers. As of 2016, an impressive 117.2 million Americans watch video on their phones, a figure that is only projected to grow over the next three years. According to ComScore research, mobile is actually responsible for at least 65% of digital media time.


Explainers aren’t just for educating and entertaining your audience. There are significant benefits for your brand.

Increase your web traffic: Video transforms strangers into prospective customers by bringing them to your site in the first place. Marketers who use video receive 41% more web traffic from search, according to Aberdeen research. And posts with video also get 3X more inbound links than text-only posts, according to Moz.

Convert more customers: According to a Liveclicker video commerce survey of customers, including brands like Best Buy, Petco, and Under Armour, 88% reported an increase in conversions after adding video to a product page.

Google found that 1 in 3 millennials say they purchase a product as a direct result of watching a tutorial or how-to video about it. And marketing platform Unbounce experienced an impressive 100% lift in conversion by adding video to landing pages.

Expand your reach and visibility: A one-on-one pitch or demonstration is limited to that single interaction. By putting your explainer video online, you expand both its lifespan and reach. Anyone online can find it, and viewers can share them as well. (Shareability is another reason mobile audiences are important. IAB research found that 92% of mobile video consumers share videos with others.)

Build trust and credibility: Explainer videos are often a customer’s first touchpoint; they’re a great opportunity to showcase who you are and what you’re about. For startups, explainers can position the brand as confident and professional. For established brands, they’re an opportunity to humanize the company. Above all, they are the first step to building a trusting relationship with the audience.

Save internal resources: Your customer service reps and salespeople have to make the same pitch or demonstration over and over. Even if a few details change in order to customize the tone or experience for the customer, the core information stays the same. An explainer video frees up manpower and energy—for which your team will surely thank you—while ensuring consistent messaging across all brand touchpoints.

In addition to traditional applications, explainer videos can also support your brand in other communication areas:

  • Sales collateral: Is there a story you tend to repeat? Or information you always reference? An explainer video can be a great starting point for a conversation. Your audience would much rather engage with a video than have to flip through a binder that makes them feel like a bored student.
  • Presentations: Time is limited in a presentation. An explainer video can help provide context or deliver important information up top to let you dive into more relevant info and save time.
  • About Us videos: Aside from sales, explainer videos can be a great way to promote your company culture to both consumers and prospective employees. Who wants to read a boring mission statement anyway?


If you think you have an interesting story to tell, read our post to find out if an explainer video is the right option. And, remember, not all explainers are equal. Success really comes down to whether or not you have a high-quality production in terms of story, design, music, etc. Depending on your resources, you may try to DIY or get some outside assistance.

Going in-house? While it’s totally possible to make an explainer with your own resources, it really depends on your goal and if it lines up with your capabilities. If you’re making a quick, simple product demo, you can likely get away with the charm of simplicity.

Outsourcing the job? An agency has the experience and resources to execute a high-profile explainer video. They’ve been through the process and know what’s worked and what hasn’t. They can also guide you through the process if you have no idea where to start. Above all, it’s important to work with the right creative partner.