5 explainer videos that pushed brands to the next level

12th October 2021

At Hurricane Media, we’re not shy about our love of explainer videos and shouting about why explainers can drive customer engagement. It’s a massive format for the video marketing industry, a major league marketing tool for businesses, and a really popular way of getting your message across.

We’ve already talked about how it achieved its superstar status on other blogs, but this article looks to trace the times when explainer videos pushed boundaries and flexed their muscle.

Some of this innovation can’t be repeated, it was easier to break new ground back in the day. But credit where credit is due, all the explainer videos we’ve selected stand out for their creativity and implementation.

Historically, explainers really started to appear around 2007/8. They’re actually an offshoot of the humble PowerPoint presentation, which were endemic to every sales meeting at the time.

YouTube, itself a fairly new service, began exploding with “how it works” type explainers.
Today’s big brands, like Twitter and Dropbox (who were pretty small back then), began to use this format to help the customer understand their service. As you’ll see, the results were pretty spectacular.


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Our top 5 explainer videos

    1. That Dropbox explainer video. 2009
    2. Among the frontrunners of explainer videos, this one was clever in a couple of ways. Its visual style was pretty fresh and easy to watch. Maybe a bigger tick than the style is the way it takes the metaphor of losing important things (keys, wallet, neither of which have anything to do with data) and applies that emotional pang of worry to your files. It helped the customer feel like they wanted the Dropbox product. It worked. It’s credited with generating an increase of 10 million users and 50 million dollars in revenue.

      Takeaway: Video is a way to connect to customers both logically and emotionally.

    3. Twitter “In plain English”. 2008
    4. Another early example of the power of the explainer video, but not for the producers. They made this video independent of Twitter, and when Twitter saw it they liked it so much they put it on their homepage. 10 million impressions later and you’ve got to say whoever made the decision to post that video deserves a raise. The video is simple and easy to follow. It makes a clear point and helps the viewer understand why Twitter might work for them.

      Takeaway: Explainers can help move customers through the journey towards action.

    5. Dollar Shave Club 2012
    6. This is technically a brand film, more than a pure explainer, but it does have elements of why their service might suit you, so we’re including it. It’s not the first, most expensive, or cleverest video you’ll ever see, but it might have the highest ROI ever. We know this is on every “best marketing video” list ever, and there is a reason for that. If you’re one of the few people who haven’t seen this video, go and watch it now. Back with us? How much did you think that it cost? Well, the cost of $4,500 was dwarfed by the value of the 12000 orders it generated.

      Takeaway: ROI is important. Make sure you’ve got a way to track it with your explainers.

    7. The Groupon “How it works” explainer. 2010
    8. Arguably the first animated explainer, and the start of the inexorable rise of the explainer in general. It took all the best elements of what went before but used a new graphically pleasing format to make it look pioneering and avant-garde. It retains the clarity of the message but with a more energetic and fun outlook to the whole production.

      Takeaway: Getting the right style means figuring out what your message is and how you want to communicate it.

    9. AGID for Addleshaw Goddard
    10. Yes, this is one of ours. One we’re rightly proud of. Taking a tight brief and making sure we hit all the right notes so the client got everything they wanted from the video, and then some. The punchy style of the kinetic motion type and the sharp colour palette helped the audience connect with the disruptive offering to the legal sector. The video was the backbone of a global social media campaign that propelled AGID to a new audience and made a real difference to their brand.

      Takeaway: Explainers need more than just great style, they also need to have clear aims and goals.

Closing thoughts

From the earliest attempts at explainer videos, right through to today’s high performance and cutting edge offerings, this is a format that can achieve a lot. Getting the framework right so that it’s clear why you’re making the video, what it will show, and how it will show it, is important. Production and activation then also need to be on song so that it gets to the right eyes. The result? Impactful digital video marketing that delivers on all fronts.


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