When Rewatchable first came on the Boston video production scene nearly 5 years ago, the concept of “explainer videos” did not really exist. Then something happened in 2012. All of a sudden, explainer videos were everywhere. Rewatchable is mostly focused on camera-based video production and corporate videos that feature real people. So, we found the explainer video phenomenon pretty interesting. At the time, we could have panicked and changed the way we do business and jumped on the explainer video bandwagon. We are glad we did not.

First, for the uninitiated let me explain what an explainer video is and why they are used. An explainer video is typically a very well thought-out, cartoony short video explanation of what a company or product does. An explainer video typically has interesting visuals and a compelling voice-over that helps narrate the story. We think they became popular so quickly for a couple of reasons. First, the business that commissioned the video has complete control of what is in the script and ultimately every syllable that is uttered and frame that is shown in the video. From the perspective of a marketing person, an explainer video can seem very appealing because “you can’t get fired for” a video that everyone agreed to every word of before it was ever even produced. Also, an explainer video does not require an employee or customer to go on camera. Plus, you don’t have to schedule a time for a video production crew to come to your location or clean up your office. What could be better?

The truth is explainer videos can be a good fit in some circumstances. If there is nobody that is willing to go in front of the camera and your company isn’t ready to share much in the way of detail – explainer videos can be used effectively to create initial interest. The problem we find with many explainer videos is that they are intentionally vague and a viewer can walk away being no more informed than when they started the video. The videos are often created so a super wide audience can understand the company or product at a very high level. That’s great if you want your mother-in-law to understand what the heck your MIT start-up does but there should be an assumption that most prospects visiting your website have a general idea of what your company does. These prospects need details and they need to get a sense of who your company is on a human level. There is an old but true adage – ‘people buy from people’. The new adage should be ‘people buy from people – not cartoons.’

A real live human being (even if recorded) can help build trust in ways a cartoon never could. There are no studies to prove it but we would bet a viewer would be far more likely to remember (and feel attached to) a person they saw in a corporate video than a corporate cartoon. We’ve watched tons of explainer videos and we often feel the same way we do after eating cotton candy. “That was good – but I’m not sure I got anything out of it – oh well what’s next…” So, here’s our self serving advice, if you want to really communicate with your prospects via video and let them know what the heck you do – you should tell them just what you would if they came to your office for an introductory sales meeting – just do it with a video camera rolling. If possible, your prospects want to hear directly from you. They want to get the ‘warm & fuzzies’and see that your company has passionate, smart people.

There is another untold side to explainer videos. Whereas camera-based video production projects can be as simple as creating a rough outline and letting the on-screen professionals tell the story – an explainer video can require weeks of planning (soft costs) to go along with the price tag that can easily hit $25,000.

Truth be told Rewatchable does build many custom graphics focused videos for our clients. Those videos would technically be described as explainer videos. We are happy to make them if we believe the viewer will walk away with a better understanding of a product or service because we used very specific graphics rather than showing actual people. However, if you want a cookie cutter explainer video that uses templates that were used in thousands of other videos you probably would be better off calling one of the hundreds of companies that make explainer videos.

So, is the explainer video trend fading? We think so. We are seeing less demand for explainer videos and meanwhile our video production business has grown doing what we do best. We help organizations tell their stories using real people and we help those real people look and sound great on camera! We think there will always be a demand for that!

Rewatchable is a Boston Video Production Company.