December 1, 2016

Does your explainer video have purpose?

There’s a quote from German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche that goes, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” What’s interesting about this quote is how it can apply not just to our lives, our psychological state, and our most basic response to the human condition… but also to explainer videos.

Okay, hear me out. It might seem shallow at first to compare the very human psyche to something as deeply commercial as branded video content. But just like the way we interact with humans every day, the way consumers interact with your brand is an indicator of their understanding and trust of you. And building understanding and trust all comes back to having a clear purpose: a coherent bigger picture in which we can base our opinions and decisions. A hurtful action can be easier to forgive when understanding the purpose behind the action, and more trust can be placed in someone who is transparent about their purpose. Likewise, beyond visuals, sound, or style, an explainer video is most effective when it has a clear purpose.

To help build more trust and engagement around your brand, today we’re taking a look at five things to keep in mind to help make the purpose of your explainer video clear to your viewers.

end strong

Confusingly enough, we need to start at the end. What is the ultimate goal you’re trying to achieve? Think past the goals of having an explainer video made and onto the larger goals of your brand, company or cause: deep down, are you trying to get a message across, change a social convention, introduce an idea/product that could change the way people think about something, or is it all about building a sustainable wealth engine?

Answering this question is vital before developing new branded content, and that includes explainer videos. That’s because explaining how something works is easy but not nearly as effective as explaining why it works. If you’re not already clear on your brand’s bigger picture goals then now is the time to knuckle down and do some serious brainstorming. I’m not kidding—right now. Go on, I’ll be here when you get back.

conversion funnel

Once you’re clear on your ultimate direction it’s time to start showing that sense of purpose to your audience, and that’s where explainer videos come in. These kinds of videos function as gateways for curiosity. Because, of course, the purpose of an explainer video isn’t to have an explainer video. In the timeline of people’s interaction with your brand/cause, it’s the wide end of your conversion tunnel.

People who click on the video are, at first, mildly interested in whatever topic your video concerns, and the explainer’s job is to provide enough information to make them feel at ease with learning more about the concept. If the explainer video is about a product or brand, the purpose is to guide the viewer into a trusting relationship with the company. If it’s about a cause, the purpose is to help ease down the viewer’s cognitive dissonance to allow for an open minded consideration of the issue.

message structure

That’s not to say the message itself isn’t important. While functioning as a tool within the larger context of a brand conversion funnel, the structure of your video itself is also a conversion funnel. Each second that goes by must convince the viewer to stay for the next second.

That’s why the most broadly important info needs to go first: within 10 seconds we need to know what the need is, and immediately after that we need to know the solution. Next up is a brief reassurance of why the solution works. Each section of information flows cleanly to the next, aiming to maximise viewer engagement. Cap off the video by giving a clear direction on how the viewer can keep interacting with the brand/cause/product: the call to action.

call to action

In an ideal scenario, where do you want your viewer to go after they watch your explainer video? To another video, a website, a product selection page, their phone, your physical store? Make it as easy as possible for the viewer to know what their next step should be in interacting with your brand.

CTAs don’t just apply to products and services either. Sometimes the major purpose of an explainer video is to create awareness for a social issue—to guide the viewer into seeing something in a new light. There is no monetary profit and no product outside of social awareness—yet even in this situation is a CTA required to make full use of your explainer’s viewership. Let’s say you’re watching a video explaining the effects of depression. It’s produced well, it’s powerful, it makes you think about how much you really engage with mental health issues: then the video ends. Do you go back to what you were doing before, or do you open up a new browser tab, google ‘depression effects’, wade through the links looking for something easily digestible, come up with some barely relevant articles and jargon-filled scientific papers, give up, and go back to what you were doing before?

The point here is that an explainer video without a call to action divides your audience. There’s Proactive Participators and there’s Lazy Leavers, and with every second that goes by the population of Leavers gets larger and larger. Appeal to the lazy person within us all and provide a clear next step down the conversion tunnel.


Where in history, in social context, in pop culture trends, and in specific demographic targeting does your brand sit? Certain phrases that might’ve been fresh or acceptable a couple of years ago may seem stale or even in poor taste now. Keeping both broad and narrow contexts in mind can help craft an explainer video script that will speak most directly to your target audience without alienating other markets.

Furthermore, keeping an eye on the flow of social trends can allow one to take educated risks with regard to future trends. Being on the forefront of a new style can make your explainer video stand out from the rest.


Making a great explainer video means not just educating your audience, but creating a stronger sense of understanding between your viewers and your message. Working towards refining your purpose, and conveying this purpose to your viewers in an easy-to-digest way, is the essence of a well-crafted explainer video.

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Written by
Maree Railton

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