Everything you need to know about 30-second explainer videos

July 13, 2020
So you want to create a 30-second explainer video — something short, sharp and super impactful. Something to help people understand the value of your brand, product or service, but without overwhelming them with content. Something to make people sit up, lean forward and get in touch to learn more. Sound good? Amazing! Then this blog’s for you. We’ll be covering everything you need to know about 30-second explainer videos; from what they are to their strengths, weaknesses and use cases, as well as pre-production considerations, and finally, six effective types of 30-second explainer videos. So… Let’s get started!

What is a 30-second explainer video?

A 30-second explainer video is a short-form video that uses animations to explain the what / how / why etc. of a business and its products or services. These explainer videos simplify ideas by giving enough detail to be clear, but not confusing. Content can include motion elements like typography, icons, illustrations and bespoke animated characters, as well as voice-over. . Branded 30-second explainer videos are one of the best ways to clearly, concisely – and successfully – deliver your message in a way that resonates.

Strengths and weaknesses of 30-second explainer videos

30-second explainer video strengths
  • Made for lower attention spans: 30-second explainer videos are just that – 30 seconds – a competitive format compared to longer-form videos with the burden of time commitment. As a result, 30-second videos are more effective at stopping thumbs scrolling through news feeds; they’re bite-sized and easy to rationalise, making them perfect for short modern attention spans.
  • Search engine optimisation (SEO) benefits: Between Google and YouTube being the first and second–largest search engines in the world, video marketing is a core tactic for SEO. Increasing website traffic and dwell time with videos can signal your website’s value to Google, which may help increase rankings.
  • Content repurposing: 30-second explainer videos are powerful multitaskers, as they can be used across your website (e.g. customer help centre) and social media, as well as internally, or for presentations like pitches.
    • According to HubSpot, these snack-able explainers are especially good at attracting visitors to your site in the top-of-the-funnel stage of the buyer’s journey – think tips and tricks for solving customer problems.
30-second explainer video weaknesses
  • Not for deep-dives: The biggest drawback with 30-second explainer videos is that 30 seconds isn’t long, so it’s impossible to get granular, or explore multifaceted problems. There’s also no time for traditional storytelling; in the first 3 seconds, you need to hook viewers or you risk losing them. If your brand, product or service is complex or requires the due diligence of more than 30 seconds of content, this video type may not be for you – especially if your target audience is the type to ask more questions than a 30-second video can handle (e.g. a product video for potential investors).

When to use a 30-second explainer video

A 30-second explainer video is useful not only for established audiences – as you can save time on building brand trust – but also for raising awareness with new ones. In this attention economy, the rise of ‘content fatigue’ means brands have even less time to make an impact than previously. A 30-second video caters to that, stating the ‘what’s in it for me’ (WIIFM) for your audience up front, so you can get on with communicating your points and call to action. These shorter videos respect viewers’ time, which in turn promotes a better user experience, whether you’re on social media, your website or any other platform.

What to know when planning a 30-second explainer

  • Video length: You need to leave 3-5 seconds at the end for your animated logo. Because these videos are so short, we recommend using the first 3-5 seconds to hook viewers (versus a brand reveal), though this is up to you. Ultimately, the takeaway is not all 30 seconds should be packed with content.
  • Key message(s): As mentioned, there’s just no time for deep-dives – brevity is everything with these types of videos. If you do need to cover pain points in order to introduce your brand’s solution, be brief and get straight to the point of your unique selling proposition and key messages. Don’t forget any next steps e.g. how viewers can get in touch after watching your video.
  • Word count: Keep in mind that word counts for 30-second explainer videos usually come in at around 75-85 words. You can use the word count tool in your word processor to check and amend accordingly when scripting.

6 effective types of 30-second explainer videos

1. 2D typography
2D typography explainer videos use slick fonts with text-based motion to communicate their message. They can be text-only or a combination of text overlays and other visual content, often with voice-over to reinforce key points.
2. Product demo
30-second product demos are great for products that are simple or focused on user experience e.g. technology like apps and websites. These videos, such as screen demos, cover what a product is and demonstrate what it does quickly and clearly.
3. Whiteboard
Whiteboard animated explainers are often visualised as static images with motion elements, and can be an interesting way to communicate dry or complicated topics. The sequential images tell a story, which can be further enhanced by voice-over.
4. Illustration
The main difference between whiteboard and illustrated animations is the latter are like short cartoons, with more dynamic animated characters and stories. Illustrated videos are also a lighter way to engage without going full ‘character story’ video.
5. Flat icon
Similar to illustration videos, flat icon explainers tell a simple story but with graphic design–based icons that are animated to perform kinetic motion. As with their static form, these flat icons are impactful thanks to their highly stylised look and feel.
6. Character story
30-second character stories are the ultimate in 30-second animated explainer videos. Characters are custom-created and developed with personalities and emotions, as well as individual story arcs. The perfect video type for high-priority internal and external brand campaigns.

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