What Is an Explainer Video? Create Compelling Explainer Videos

Written by
Tiffani Bauer
min read

According to a 2019 report from GE Capital, 81% of consumers research a product online before buying. That means it’s in a business’s best interest to make their product information easy for customers to find. One of the most effective ways of relaying that information is through an explainer video. An explainer video is a strong and versatile marketing tool that companies can use to highlight what makes their product stand out.

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What is an explainer video?

In a basic sense, an explainer video is just that: an explanation video, or video that explains something. Explainer videos are short, digital marketing videos that concisely and compellingly explain your company’s product or service. They most often appear on company landing pages, or on a prominently featured product page. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that there’s more to this video style than meets the eye.

A good explainer video has five important features:

  • Brevity: Explainer videos typically get to the point quickly, but that doesn’t mean you should skimp on providing an in-depth explanation of the topic at hand. Find ways to properly explain your product in a concise, digestible form that keeps the video length around two to three minutes .
  • Call to action: Explainer videos clearly state what the audience should do after watching, whether that’s purchase a product, sign up for an email newsletter, or follow a social media account. You’re publishing this video for a reason, so make sure your viewers know what you want them to do.
  • Resolution to a problem: Explainer videos articulate specific pain points and address how a product or service provides the best solution. Be clear about why your product stands out in the market and how it uniquely solves your customer's problems.
  • Cohesion with brand and audience: The style and tone of any explainer video should correspond with the aesthetic and feel of your brand, and appeal to the tastes of the brand’s target audience and customer base. This might be a potential customer’s first encounter with your brand, so make sure it conveys your company’s messaging clearly.
  • Quality: Explainer videos should be professional quality, both in terms of production value and the content itself. If you don’t have the right talent and equipment in-house, consider paying a professional videographer, scriptwriter, and maybe even an actor or presenter to help produce it. Even if your company is just a one-person operation, a slick explainer video will make you look organized and professional.

Benefits of explainer videos

The main benefit of producing an explainer video for your company is that it serves as a versatile marketing tool that you can customize for many different channels. While it might find a permanent home on your website, an explainer video is recyclable — you can post it to your social media profiles, you can project it on the wall at company events and industry conferences, or you can include clips in your newsletters. Other benefits of creating an explainer video include:

  • Audience engagement: According to Forbes, producing an explainer video and posting it to your company’s website or social media pages can result in as much as an 80% boost in conversion rates. Conversion rates as small as 10% can have a significant, positive impact on profitability. Forbes found that file-sharing startup Dropbox, for example, was able to add 10 million additional users by producing and disseminating an explainer video.
  • Digestible content: Explainer videos combine the power of visual and audio communication to tell stories in a bite-sized, easy-to-process format. Think about it — would you rather read text for 10 minutes or get the same information in a two-minute video?
  • Efficient use of company resources: Your marketing and sales team can spend less time pitching products and services in person or over the phone, and instead use one high-quality explainer video to introduce the company to prospective customers or vendors.
  • Appeals to emotion: Video has the ability to draw a real emotional response from the audience. By combining voice-over, music, and carefully chosen visuals in your explainer video, you can build an emotional connection with prospective customers that can lead to long-term brand loyalty.
  • Trackable return on investment: Explainer videos can convert anyone into a potential customer by bringing them to your website or leading them to share your content on their social media feed. You can track that impact by analyzing traffic and time customers spend on your pages before and after you post an explainer video.

Types of explainer videos

Explainer videos can vary just as widely as the minds of the creatives behind them. But there are still two standard formats that are common practice across industries.

Animated explainer video

Animated explainer videos are common because of their compelling and lighthearted visuals. But even animated videos can range in style and function. Some common styles include:

  • Infographic: Infographic explainer videos use charts, graphs, and icons to explain business functions and key metrics.
  • Chalkboard or whiteboard animation: This style mimics writing or drawing on a chalkboard or whiteboard. The viewer sees a set of hands that live draws an animation as a voiceover pushes the narrative forward. This type of video is easy and quick to produce — the animator is simply drawing what they hear, though computer-generated versions of this format are available as well.
  • Product simulation or demonstration: These explainer videos spotlight footage of your product or service in action, usually paired with a voiceover explaining the steps of the process. These are particularly useful for software, as the customers just want to know how easy it is to solve their problem with your tool.
  • Character-driven: This style of explainer video uses cartoons representing the prospective customer. This is especially useful for demonstrating the problem-solving aspect of your product and puts your potential customer in the shoes of this character.

Live-action explainer video

Live-action explainer videos use footage of real people and objects to explain your company’s product or service. The upside of this style is that it can show the real people behind your business, such as the CEO or founder, along with actors. The most interesting live-action explainer videos require a lot of creativity and potentially a team of writers to create an engaging script.  

How to create an explainer video

A solid explainer video follows a relatively simple three-step process:

  • Pre-production: Come up with your concept, write your script, build a crew, or employ the services of a video production company. If applicable, plan your live shoot schedule or storyboard your animation.
  • Production: With the preparation complete, it’s time to make your explainer video. At this point, you begin animating or shooting your explainer video. It’s important to stick to a schedule and adhere to deadlines here, as production can get more expensive with each passing day.
  • Post-production: Edit your explainer video. Record voiceovers and overlay music or sound effects. If you’re working with a video production company, they will likely have an editor who can complete this step for you. If you’re producing the video in-house, there are plenty of easy-to-use video editing software options — including Descript, of course, which lets you edit video as easily as editing a text document.

Final thoughts

While they might sound simple on paper, explainer videos take a considerable amount of effort, coordination, and organization to effectively produce. If you’re finding the process to be overwhelming, and you have room in your budget, you may want to consult a seasoned video producer or shop around for third-party video production companies. These professionals can help you perfect every component of the explainer video, from writing an interesting script to maximizing social media engagement with the final product.

Written by
Written by
Tiffani Bauer

Video Producer at Descript. Accomplished editor and videographer. Fan of hibachi and women's basketball and knit hats.

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Tiffani Bauer

Video Producer at Descript. Accomplished editor and videographer. Fan of hibachi and women's basketball and knit hats.

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