In my opinion, the explainer video marketing trend is dreadful.
Marketers want visitors to understand their solutions. Try as they might, marketers can't whittle that evasive selling proposition down into a sentence, so they make an infomercial—er, sorry—an explainer video. It's not an infomercial because there's no bonus if you act now. No operators are standing by.
It gets worse.
Often, they don't yet have customers, so they can't splice together a happy customer reel. The inventor of the solution is camera-shy, so the talking head approach is out. They have no revenue stream, so it never even occurs to anyone to bring in professionals to produce a commercial.
But heeeeeey... What about explainer videos? They explain stuff.
It gets worse.
What if the things that you marketers are marketing, which need explaining, are largely invisible? Marketers do what marketers do. They copy bad marketers (in the habit of taking cues from other bad marketers) who earn big bucks marketing invisible products.
In this case, they dig into their startup marketing budget, extract a fiver, and visit Fiverr, the spot where 5,000 out-of-work artists—each dimmer than a dime—somehow manage to make a living landing clients willing to pay those pals a virtual five spot.
It gets worse.
As it turns out, though the animation thing sounds like a good way to sex-up a product that has no users, can't be shown, and doesn't yet exist, it's actually is going to cost several George Washingtons more than an Abe Lincoln.
But wait. Look at how many genius whiteboard animators are fishing for fives.
The video might not be boring after all because it can feature a real robot reading a script while simultaneously showing someone drawing the words. For as little as five dollars more, the hand holding the dry erase marker can draw icons, stick figures, digital devices, you name it. It's been said that one whiteboard Warhol actually drew a Coca-Cola bottle.
Let's get to the real problem.
The real problem is marketers need the ability to present a selling proposition—a WHY—in one sentence. Not one minute. Not one elevator ride up the Empire State building. One sentence.
Explainer videos don't do this. They don't even come close.
Here's a typical explainer video script from a fictitious product, Killer Sauce. Most products resemble Killer Sauce, so I hope you can relate.
That meal you've been eating tasted good for a while, but now it's too plain. You might have tried pepper, but pepper's a commodity.
What you really need is Killer Sauce. Killer Sauce is based on years of research in sauce science. We hired the market's most innovative minds who then poured themselves into sauces the world over to develop a new sauce unlike any ever bottled. Killer Sauce has ingredients extracted from plants you've never heard of indigenous to nations you've never heard of.
It's been formulated with a proprietary process that could only be explained in a much longer explainer video. However, watch this. Look how we secretly mixed a bunch of secret ingredients into one secret sauce. (Keep your eyes on the arrows. Don't try this at home—and look! The test tubes have captions, and the beaker produces happy people.)
In test markets, with test dummies, whose identities cannot be revealed, our state-of-the-art sauce tested to be ultra-saucy. One sauce taster, who has a best-selling book about sauces, even said, "Killer Sauce tastes like no other sauce I've ever tasted."
And now, for a limited time, and for a limited number of sauce enthusiasts like yourself, we will email you information about the upcoming release of the first test sauce from Killer Sauce. Absolutely free! If you click here to learn more ambiguous stuff about Killer Sauce, now, we'll send you a free e-book titled "10 Things You Can Cook with Killer Sauce (but Not Tabasco)."
Case in point, a client of mine had a big idea, a wonderfully promising extension of their very popular brand. I'll abstract the brand and call it "Smiley Book."
Smiley Book creates personalized, print-on-demand books for children. Buyers submit details like the child's name and gender. A personalized book is created. There's a 100% chance the book will make the kid smile. Parents seem to like that. The book will become the kid's favorite. Smiles run rampant.
Smiley Books decided a portable, Web-based version of its product could easily become place mats or activity books restaurants (or any family businesses) could give to their patrons.
They asked me to write an explainer video. It gets worse. They wanted a script for a whiteboard video. Why?
Explainer videos are for marketers unable to explain themselves. That's the title of this article. That's my point of view.
For a B2C play, why wouldn't Killer Sauce tell their customers this:
Killer Sauce makes your mundane meal amazing.
For a B2B play, why wouldn't Smiley Book tell restaurants this:
Smiley Books makes your restaurant your customers' favorite (even without Killer Sauce).
Do you need to be Einstein?
Steve Jobs refused to sit through PowerPoint presentations. If you wanted to show him, one he'd simply ask, "What do you want?"
Of course, Einstein predated PowerPoints and explainer videos. Albert may have been gentler than Jobs, but he wouldn't have watched your explainer video—even if you invested $10 in producing it and offered him a bratwurst coupon.
Albert said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
I submit an explainer video is the opposite of genius. If you want 120 seconds of my time to explain your reason for being, you asked for 110 seconds too many.
I don't want you to explain your product to me. No one does. If you're lucky (or savvy) enough to get my attention for a second, or 10, explain this: Why should I care?
Let me offer you the most powerful template you'll ever see to explain your business to me. Just fill in the blank.
"How to _______________________ ."
Can you do that? If you can't, no whiteboard can save you.
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