Updated: Apr 7, 2020
Video has proven to be a highly effective form of marketing; 64% to 81% of consumers have been convinced to buy a product or service after watching a video online. And there's a particular style of product video that's extremely popular and effective with large and small businesses alike: animation.
Animation video marketing has taken the digital marketing scene by storm. As we'll explore, animated videos uniquely allow you to have full control over the aesthetics and message you want to convey as part of your marketing strategy. So how can you use animated videos to promote your business?
In today's post, we'll cover everything there is to know about animation video marketing. We'll...
Take a look at different types of animation used as part of a digital marketing strategy at different levels.
Briefly look at how video animation for marketing has changed over the years.
Discuss the unique benefits of animation video marketing.
Compare animation with written content and live-action video.
Outline the steps you can take to ensure your animation best promotes your brand.
Throughout the post, we'll analyze some practical examples and summarize with tips and reminders of what to consider when planning your animation video.
Different types of animated video
The most prevalent type of animated video in marketing is the "explainer video." 45% of companies that use video have an explainer video on their homepage, and 83% of those businesses claim that it has been effective.
As we discussed in "What is a Product Video - How do they help?" an explainer video is usually around 2 minutes long. It includes narration to aid the audience's understanding of the product or service. It addresses what problem the product or service solves, who it's for, how it works, and how to use it.
Explainer videos are usually used on landing pages, or in the about us section of a website. If you'd also like to use your explainer video like a paid ad online, talk to your video production agency, as there are a few tweaks that can make it more effective, and prevent people from clicking that "skip" button.
This animated video for home hub platform Picniic is a textbook example of an animated explainer video. It contains all the information you need to understand who the app is for and how to use it.
Writing the perfect explainer video script for your company
The following is an outline on what you should include in your explainer video:
What is the problem that your product or service resolves?
Introduce your product/platform/service as the solution!
Who is your product/service for?
Show critical features and explain their benefits.
How was the problem resolved?
Include a Call To Action (CTA). "Call this number," "Find out more
You want to keep your video as short as possible. Ideally, under 2 minutes, any longer and you'll lose eyeballs before you get to the all-important CTA.
Marketing campaign videos
If you'd like to raise awareness about a product launch or campaign, or if you're considering incorporating video into your latest marketing campaign, video animation is a great option.
The #ReuseRevolution campaign by Greenpeace shows how effective animation can be without the use of text or narration. They use paid advertising to disseminate this animated video online.
Bring a static infographic to life by turning it into an easily digestible animated video. You can use animated infographics to...
Establish a need for your product. E.g., How many people are affected by the problem or need your product fulfills? What areas are affected?
Show the effectiveness of your product. E.g., What are the positive outcomes some of your users have recorded? What percentage of users would recommend your product?
Showcase the popularity of your product or service to date. E.g., How many people have trusted your service since your launch? How many positive ratings have you had?
Publish your animated infographic on your website, share it on your social media channels, incorporate an animated infographic into a presentation or newsletter for your investors, or play it on loop at a conference stand.
Example: Walmart Neighborhood Market
Walmart chose to use an animated infographic as part of its Neighborhood Market campaign, demonstrating the positive effect it is having on local communities in LA.
Depending on your industry or your business model, there might be an opportunity for you to use animation to create free content of real value for your clients.
Creating free content might feel like a counterproductive move in the pursuit of increased revenue, but here are a few reasons why it works:
You establish your brand as an expert on the topic. People researching your industry will find your video filled with useful information or advice and consider you an authority on the subject.
You demonstrate your value. Showing is much more useful than describing. By providing free content, your audience will get a taste of what to expect when working with you.
You create goodwill and loyalty with your audience. Never underestimate the power of gratitude. If you help your audience with meaningful content before they've even spent a penny, it logically follows that you'll be first on their list when it comes to deciding whether to buy from you or your competitors.
Example 1: Headspace
We've already spoken about this meditation app brand's incredible use of animation in "What is a Product Video - How do they help?". Here they've created an on-brand video blog with wellness tips and free meditation. It's a straightforward example of how providing free content can leave the viewer wanting more.
Example 2: Chineasy
Chineasy is an app that teaches people how to read and write Chinese characters. Their YouTube channel is filled with great free content in which they overlay the live-action video of the narrator with animation.
They not only talk about the Chinese language, but they also include videos relating to Chinese culture, establishing themselves as experts providing a holistic language learning experience. This video is one such example. It also helps demonstrate how the app works - by converting characters into memorable drawings that relate to the meaning of the characters.
Who uses animated videos?
Animated video marketing is ubiquitous. It's used by big and small businesses alike, non-profit organizations, government bodies, and startups. Almost every industry can benefit from animated videos. There are a few exceptions, as we'll discuss later in the section entitled "When and when not to use animation video marketing."
8 ways animated videos can help:
1. Visualize abstract benefits
If you're selling a physical product like a vacuum cleaner or kitchen interiors, it's relatively simple to use live-action video to showcase the benefits of your product.
Nowadays, however, it's more likely that what you are selling is digital or service-based. The benefits are much more abstract than a clean carpet or a soft-close cabinet. What you are offering your customers is intangible: maybe it's efficiency, organization, security, or peace of mind. How can these be visually represented?
By animation, of course! Take a look at this explainer video for Slack:
The video opens by explaining the problem: the chaos of modern communication, which is represented by colored shapes, dashes, and splodges. The solution: Slack. "Slack is simpler; Slack brings everything you need for teamwork into one place." As the narrator speaks, the colorful chaos satisfyingly arranges itself on-screen.
The problem that Slack solves (chaos) and the resulting benefit (organization) are both intangible concepts that are elegantly represented through animation.
2. Sell a feeling
Time for some marketing 101: selling a feeling is more effective than selling a product. It's easier to connect with an audience on an emotional level.
As with the abstract benefits mentioned above, feelings can also be tricky to represent visually. In a speech, we use hyperbole and surrealism to express feeling like hunger, pride, and joy:
"I'm so hungry I could eat a horse!"
"I feel like a million dollars."
"I'm on top of the world!
We're used to breaking the laws of nature when verbally describing feelings. But when it comes to expressing it through live-action film, well… it's easier said than done!
Unless you have a sky-high budget and can fork out on green screen and special effects, you're entirely constrained by the laws of nature.
Not so with animation videos. Take a look at this example by Giant Ant studios for Spotify Premium.
Who can't relate to that feeling of release and relaxation after a hard day at work? This animation conveys a clear message: Subscribe to Spotify Premium, and you too will be transported far from your daily grind with their music and Hulu documentaries. The effect that this video achieved would not have been possible with just live-action footage.
3. Show off the functionality of your app/ online platform
Do you have a sleek user interface? Want to show people how easy it is to use your app or website? You can use animation to give your audience a sneak peek of your product and demonstrate how it works.
This example from Grammarly overlays live-action footage with animation to demonstrate their product in use.
Seeing the app in action helps us visualize how it works and imagine ourselves using it in our own lives.
4. Keep it fun
Animations are engaging, and it's probably because they're just more fun to watch. They're colorful, playful, and it's easier to rest your eyes on a 2-minute animation than to read a long blog like this one!
That might help to explain why 80% of marketers report that including a video has reduced the bounce rate on their website.
5. More memorable
Not only do animated videos attract and keep our attention, but they also help us retain information.
"People remember pictures better than words," says Randy Krum, President & Chief Design of InfoNewt, "especially over longer periods of time." This is known as the Picture Superiority Effect.
The fact that people better understand and retain information presented to them in video form has substantial repercussions for your business.
Of the businesses that use video, 93% believe it has improved understanding of their product or service. Needless to say, prospective clients who better understand your product or service are more likely to follow through to purchase.
The benefits don't stop there: 47% of marketers have seen reductions in the number of support questions they receive after publishing their video. It would seem that a well made, thorough explainer video could help curb expenditure on customer service resources.
6. Reinforce your branding
You have invested time and money on your branding. You (or your branding agency) have researched which colors and typefaces best represent your brand and make it stand out from its competitors.
One of the significant advantages of using animation video marketing is that you can create videos that are unmistakably part of your brand. This is a technique that is used by the most successful brands out there.
For example, every Google animation out there is unmistakably...well… Google. Take a look at this ad for their #MakeTime campaign:
The consistent use of Google's typography, distinctive bold colors, and iconography means that within 10 seconds, we know that this is video content is from Google.
7. Represent your audience
It can feel quite hokey and disingenuous when an on-screen actor claims to represent a target demographic. "Hi, my name's Jenny, and when I'm running around after my three kids, I like to use [insert product here]." It can be hard for your audience to suspend their disbelief.
One way to get around that is to find real-life users of your product that are happy to appear on camera and that suit your target demographic. That's quite a big ask.
With animation, you can tailor the characters that appear in your advert to reflect your demographic exactly. And instead of a voice actor pretending to be Jenny, we can use a narrator, show Jenny running around after her three kids, and cut to her using the product. What's more, since it's animation, it's clear that we're not claiming that Jenny exists, and the illusion doesn't appear deceitful.
A brief history of the marketing usage of animation videos
There's one name that springs to mind when talking about the history of animation…. PIXAR…. Just kidding. It is, of course, Walt Disney.
Disney knew the magic that animation could provide. He used it to significant effect to suspend reality, to create fantasy worlds, and to bring life to his imagination. Disney was continually breaking new ground. In the 1940s, he merged 2D animation with live-action footage in several of his films. A technique which he also used in this promo for Peter Pan:
It didn't take advertising agencies long to catch on to the potential of animation to market their clients' products. Some of the characters first devised to sell cereal to kids in the 50s are still used today. Take a look at these golden oldie ads:
Trix the Rabbit (1959)
Tony the Tiger (1959)
Advertisers also knew from the start that it wasn't just kids who found animation compelling, as we can see from this vintage P&G ad for Mr. Clean All Purpose Cleaner:
And here he is, reincarnated for a 21st-century audience:
"The fact that these animated characters have withstood the test of time is a testament to the power of animation."
Over the past few decades, animation has brought life to topics that, conventionally, consumers find quite dry.
Insurance providers GEICO created a cockney Gecko, and in the UK, insurance brand COMPARE THE MARKET has had exceptional success with Alexandr and Sergei the meerkats.
During the dotcom boom, the emergence of YouTube and Adobe Flash Player brought animation online. Over time, with higher internet speeds and the development of more advanced software, it became easier and cheaper to share and upload video animations. Now it's an accessible and popular way for startups and small businesses to reach their audiences.
Animation vs. Text
We've already explored many of the benefits of using animation, and all of them apply when comparing animation to text. Here is a quick summary of some of the key differences.
The Advantages of Animation
It's far more engaging.
People love video content. Reports have shown that emails that include video see an increase in click-through rate of 200-300%.
It's more shareable.
The stats speak for themselves. On Facebook, video content is shared 12 times more than posts with links and text combined!
It's more memorable.
As New York Times best selling author John Medina writes, "Vision trumps all other senses. [...] We learn and remember best through pictures, not through written or spoken words." You want your message and your brand to be memorable. Pictures, especially moving pictures, will help you achieve that goal.
The Advantages of Text
Sometimes it can be advantageous to be able to scan a written piece for specific information. For example, a handbook is much more useful in text form so that your readers can easily skip ahead to the information they require.
If you want your content to be quoted (in articles like this, for example), then text can be beneficial. Journalists and blog writers researching your industry will be searching for specific information. Google reads written text.
Sometimes, it's not always appropriate to watch an animation. Maybe you're at work, on the bus, or cradling a sleeping baby, and your headphones are just out of reach. Text is a silent alternative.
Get the benefits of both!
The great news is, you don't really have to choose between animation or text - you can get the best of both worlds! If you feel that animation would be beneficial, but you'd also like the benefits of written content, there's a neat solution for that: accompany your animation with a written transcript.
The School of Life publishes the transcripts for its animations in blog form and embeds the animation below so that their users can choose to read their blog or watch their animations.
Animation Vs. live-action video:
Advantages of animation
You need to scout and hire less talent.
With animation video marketing, you only need to find one animator (or one small team of animators) that you can trust to do a good job. If you plan on using live-action video, you'll need to hire a director, camera and sound technicians, actors, etc. If you want a really sharp looking video, you might also consider hiring a professional makeup artist and a set designer. You depend on more individuals to deliver on quality.
If you do decide to choose a live-action video, spend time researching a production agency that you can trust who has a good team already in place, and will take the time to scout any further talent you might need.
You don't need props, sets, and wardrobe.
If you plan on using live-action, you'll also need to consider the added expense of booking a location and sets (that is unless you're planning to film on your premises.) You might also need to spend money on wardrobes for your actors. You'll also have to factor in the time spent on scouting and organizing the logistics.
The bottom line is that if you want your ad to feature a woman in a ballgown dress outside the Louvre in Paris, it's going to be cheaper and easier to use animation.
As your business grows, you'll require further explainer videos for your new products. The beauty of animation is that it's straightforward to keep your branding consistent across all video communication as you scale.
It's easier to amend or update.
If you want to tweak your message, you can change a voiceover much easier than reshooting live footage. If you're an international company, you might need to shoot for multiple languages. Dubbed live-video ads are inelegant. It's much cleaner and easier to replace the voiceover on an animation video, or (as with the example from Monday.com below), change the text!
Advantages of live-action
The human touch
If you're running a small family business, one of your unique selling points (USPs) is that you offer a personal and friendly service. It, therefore, makes sense that you show some familiar, approachable REAL faces in your video. This, of course, doesn't only apply to family businesses. Any business that wants to seem congenial may well benefit from showing their team in live-action videos.
Showcasing tangible products and its physical benefits.
Would the Shamwow guy have shifted millions of cleaning cloths were it not for that infomercial showcasing what it could do? If you're selling a tangible, real-world product (as opposed to a digital, online product or service), you need to show precisely what it can do.
Food is another tangible product that needs to be showcased through live-action video. No matter how good an animator is, they'll never be able to truly and fully convey how appetizing your food is. Only live-action videos can show off the springiness of the cheese on your stone-baked pizza.
When and when not to use animation video marketing
Animated videos are particularly great if ...
✔... you're marketing a digital product or service. You can show off the interface in a unique way.
✔... you're selling a feeling or an abstract concept.
✔... you're an innovative startup, or you have a new product that needs to be explained to understand how it works.
✔… you want engaging and shareable content for your blog, paid ads, or social media.
Animated videos might not be for you if...
❌...you want to introduce your team. Say that one of your USPs is that you're a family-run business or a friendly local shop: we want to see faces!
❌...the purpose of your video is to show the physical product you are selling. It's best to see your product in action.
❌... you're selling food. An animated video just won't get tums rumbling and juices flowing. We need to see the real thing.
Tips and Reminders
Below are some reminders of best practices when using animation and some tips on finding the right video production agency and communicating your needs.
1. Assess whether an animation is the best format for your message.
If you're selling an intangible product or your product/service has an abstract benefit, video animation is for you.
If you want engaging, shareable content, an animation video is your best option.
2. Clearly define the purpose of your video before starting.
What type of video do you need? An explainer video, feature video, tutorial, or a combination of 2 or more?
Where will you post it? Will it need to be formatted to be viewed on mobile, YouTube/ social media. Will it be an animation marketing video, or will it only feature on your website or landing page? Consider multiple uses to make the most of your video.
3. Have a sharp brand image.
A clear and consistent brand image will make your videos more compelling.
Larger businesses have exhaustive brand image guides, that's not necessary. But before you meet with a video production agency, it's useful to collate any imagery you've used so far in your branding.
4. Find a video production agency you can trust.
Poorly produced animated videos are a waste of time and money, and they can even harm your brand.
Ask to see a portfolio of previous work. Do the animations enhance what is said in the script? Are the animations compelling and creative? Or are they merely following a set format?
Talk through your brand and your needs to make sure they understand your vision.
5. Provide them with as much extra information as you can.
Make sure they're as equipped as possible to fulfill your brief. Be clear about what you expect them to deliver on. Some questions you might want to ask yourself:
Do you have an in-house marketing team or copywriter who can draw up a script?
Do you want to include any quotes from the founder/lead designer/head chef, etc.?
What's your budget?
6. Be open to suggestions for changes and improvements.
If you've taken the time to find the right agency, they'll be experienced in understanding what style and story will work best for your brand.
7. Check-in on the project.
Ask to see a storyboard and approve the imagery before your animator(s) commit their time to the full project.
8. Post it far and wide.
To make the most of your animation, make sure you post it wherever appropriate. Here are some suggestions
Right at the top of your homepage and landing page.
Upload it directly to each of your social media channels as a "native video," not as a YouTube link. Videos uploaded directly to Facebook have 10x more reach compared to YouTube links.
Pin it at the top of your Twitter / Facebook feed. Don't forget Facebook and Instagram stories!
Paid marketing -social media, broadcast, internet, support media (e.g., moving ads at metro stations)
Video animation is compelling. Perhaps because it's colorful and playful, or maybe because it feels familiar and comfortable - after all, we've all grown up with animation. Whatever the reason, the fact of the matter is that people are more likely to watch a full animation than read a whole blog.
In this article, we've seen animation used in several creative ways, for many different purposes. Whether it's merely to demonstrate a beautiful user interface, to bring statistics to life, or to bend the rules of nature to evoke a feeling, video animation is an excellent tool for video marketing.
If you want to know more about the different types of product videos and understand how they can benefit your business, you can read our blog entitled "What is a Product Video - How do they help?".
Reyfilm is a Miami based video animation studio; please feel free to reach out with questions and inquiries.