March 6th, 2017

The Must-Know Story Behind the Birth & Rise of Explainer Videos

You must have heard a lot about explainer videos. Have you ever wondered how they came into being? These short videos that help you understand things have a story of their own.

In 2003, an online community manager, Lee LeFever, founded Common Craft with the support of his friend (now his wife) Sachi. 2003…that was quite recent, isn’t it? This company focused on consulting with organizations on online community strategy. When faced with the challenge of explaining about the social side of the web to the clients (who had absolutely no idea about it); Lee started writing blog posts namely, “RSS in Plain English” and “Wikis in Plain English.” This made him realise that his strength is explaining complex things to beginners.

After they got married, Lee and Sachi travelled 30 countries in one year. Wow! That must be fun right? Well, that’s not all. During the trip, they purchased a video camera and shot videos throughout the day. They used to edit the footage and upload 3 min. long video on Youtube. This led them to think that they should transform the blogs written by Lee, into videos! Sachi decided to join Common Crafts instead of going for a normal job.

After returning from the trip, they tried making a video. Sachi came up with the idea of using hands, markers and paper cut-outs to tell a story, with the camera pointing to the whiteboard on the floor.

Their first video, “RSS in Plain English” was Uploaded on 23 Apr 2007 and it gained astonishing popularity! Soon, they started getting requests from various companies for making custom videos. Their second client was Google and they produced a video “Google Docs in Plain English” for them. This was just the beginning! They worked for clients like LEGO, Ford, Intel, Dropbox, Microsoft and many more. Thus, they have paved the path for this unique style of explaining things, called Explainer Videos.

Their simple explanations and cut-outs (They have a whole library for that!) gave them a unique identity. Since its inception, Common Crafts has always been transforming itself. They have made a large number of videos for educating and training people. Common Crafts strongly believes that “Small Is Beautiful”. They always try to simplify concepts so that they can be understood by a layman. So, here’s an important lesson we all can learn from the creators of explainers: Your explainers video should be simple to understand and small in size (read duration).

As you can see, explainers came into the picture because there was a need for explaining things. Since then, explainers have come a long way but need still exists. People cannot appreciate things unless they know them. You need to go forward and explain it to them. For example, you have created a hi-tech product that can change lives, but people do not know anything about it. It is as good as non-existent! Alright, so you decide to go ahead and tell them about the awesome product. You explain them about its features and the technologies it used. You also tell them that is can be of great help for them. Still, you did not get much response. You know why? Because they still did not understand it properly.

One explainer video can explain something to millions of people. Explainers “show and tell”. They cover bite-sized topics while they entertain you a bit. Once people understand that something is for their own benefit, you don’t have to go running behind them, they will themselves come to you (Like, clients started pouring in as soon as they came to know that Common Crafts can be of great help!)

Over time, businesses have realized the importance of videos and more precisely, of explainer videos. Even Wikipedia uses explainer videos like Impacted wisdom teeth, Video summary of the article Impacted wisdom teeth etc. Some of the explainer videos like the one’s for Crazy egg, Dropbox etc. received a huge response and this accelerated the growth of explainers even more. A startup called Dropbox placed an explainer video on its front page and soon got over 100 million users! How can we be so sure that it was the explainer that helped? Well, the company reported that the video was viewed about 30k times a day and got over 25 million views! In the same way, Crazy egg explainer increased the conversion rates by 64% and added an extra $21,000 a month to the income!

Today, you have thousands of companies creating explainers (Some are doing a great job, some are not). We are no more limited to cut-out explainers (although they still have their charm). There is a huge variety of explainers. You can find live-action, animated, interactive or 360-degree explainers. What used to be a sales pitch or a powerpoint presentation earlier, has been replaced by an engaging video today. Crafting an exceptional explainer video requires a lot of dexterity. Writing a short script that conveys everything you need to say, is a work of art. A badly does video goes more harm than good. So, always go for a professional agency for your explainers.


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