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Video Styles and What They Tell Your Customers

Choosing a video style is a lot like choosing an outfit for your workday. You wouldn’t go to an important client meeting in ripped jeans and a Game of Thrones t-shirt, right?

Why not? Because it conveys the wrong message to your client. You want them to see you as a professional, as someone to be trusted with their money and their business. Besides, they’re more into The Americans.

On the other hand, you probably don’t attend a neighborhood cookout in a power suit. Again, it sends the wrong message. You want to be seen as fun and approachable at the cookout, not like someone who doesn’t know how to unplug.

The same considerations go into choosing your video style for a marketing video or explainer video. You want to make the right first impression.

Designer and filmmaker Jean Cocteau once said, “Style is a simple way of saying complicated things.”

The style of your video sends an immediate subconscious message to viewers. It can tell them that your company is trustworthy, fun, modern, professional, and a whole range of other positive things that are hard to put into words.

Before we get into what to consider when choosing a video style, let’s dig into what options you have for video and the advantages and disadvantages of each one.

Video Styles

Animation

When you think animation you might think cartoons. If so, you’re limiting yourself. Animation goes way beyond Saturday morning kids’ shows.

Think of the wide range of styles in popular animated feature films. Coco looks nothing like the Emoji Movie which looks nothing like Loving Vincent. Incidentally, Loving Vincent, is a perfect example of the complexity and sophistication that animation can achieve.

Animation is versatile, giving you the opportunity to explain or visualize something that doesn’t exist yet or would be cost-prohibitive to shoot on-site. It gives you high control over the world you show.

For example, this video for Dupont Tyvek would have required multiple shooting locations and some luck to get the weather to cooperate, not to mention a large cast of construction workers and vehicles. But, with animation, our team could make it easily.

Animation comes in two basic flavors: 2D and 3D.

2D animation is the traditional flat style you remember from Looney Toons. It’s colorful and wide-ranging, quickly creating engaging narratives and relatable characters.

3D animation is computer-generated graphics with a more realistic feel. Think Finding Nemo. The characters and objects seem to have dimensionality. This style tends to be seen as slightly more sophisticated (and more expensive) than 2D animation. Marketing videos using this animation style are often more focused on bells and whistles than on story building.

There’s also stop-motion, which is labor intensive and takes a lot of time (and budget) to perfect. It uses clay, puppets, cut outs, or other materials that are photographed and then moved by small amounts from frame to frame. When combined, the still images convey a story. This style of animation tends to have a nostalgic feel. It shows viewers that you’re willing to put in the work, but you’re still fun and maybe a little bit old-school. In a good way.

Live Action

Nothing builds a personal connection with your audience faster than live action. Real people on screen immediately evoke empathy.  

You can use professional actors in your live action videos, but sometimes it’s better to use real employees and customers. You can show the faces of your business, from the CEO to the sales staff, to the people that you serve, building trust and creating a relationship.

Consider this ad from P&G. Even if you watch it without the sound, you instantly feel a connection to the featured scientists because they’re real people with real faces. You can read their expressions and see their pride in their work.

Live action video shows viewers that you’re trustworthy and down to earth. You understand the real challenges they face and have a real solution—especially if you have a physical product to introduce or explain. Sometimes, seeing is believing.

Whiteboard Video

Whiteboard videos have taken the video world by storm in the last few years. They’re clear, streamlined, easy to understand, and perfect for educational videos or number-heavy presentations. From simple stick figure graphics to more complex world-building, whiteboard videos can portray just about anything.

When viewers see whiteboard videos, they’re transported back to their school days and primed to learn something new.

Motion Graphics

Like whiteboard video, motion graphics are a stripped down, essentials-only approach to video. They use shapes and text to convey ideas. Unlike whiteboard videos, motion graphics can be polished and sophisticated.

Motion graphics videos tend to be more serious and to the point. They’re less likely to follow a story and more likely to explain a product or show a result. This style of video tells viewers that you are a no-nonsense company with solid solutions.

Typography

More formally known as kinetic typography, this style of video is simple, clean and straightforward. It’s best used when you have a single, clear idea or emotion you want to convey.

Keep these short as viewers can lose interest since the story is slowed down to the speed of reading and there are no characters to engage with. Plus, they’re often deployed on social media since they’re easy to understand even with the sound off.

Screencast

Screencast videos are a niche style of video often used by tech companies with a software product. Screencasting records the movements on your computer desktop for viewers to watch. It can be used to demonstrate software and give real insight into the interface and functionality. Sometimes the best way to show how it works is to, well, show how it works.

Live video

Live video is becoming ever more popular as social media outlets integrate it into their products. According to a Livestream survey, 78 percent of online audiences watch video on Facebook Live. People love live videos because they’re immediate and personal. They tell viewers that your brand is open, accessible, and friendly.

At the same time, live video does have some drawbacks. Production value can vary depending on quality of your device, the quality of internet connection, lighting, background noise, and other factors. That’s an important thing to consider since the same survey found that 90% of viewers believe video quality is the most important aspect of a live video.

Plus, you don’t have the opportunity to edit or get something just right. If you have a wardrobe malfunction…

A Style of Choice

With all those options, how do you choose? Is one style more effective than the other? Yes and no. Different styles might be more or less effective for particular businesses or product lines.

It all depends on who your audience is, what you’re trying to accomplish, your budget, and how it all fits in with your established brand identity.

Sometimes, your gut is a reliable guide. As you read through the above, did one particular type of video seem right for what you’re trying to communicate? You might be right. But also, here are some other things to consider.

Purpose

First, consider the purpose of your video. Do you want to teach viewers how to use your product? In that case a whiteboard video, screencast, or motion graphics might be a good choice.

These styles excel at showing connections or leading viewers through a sequence of events. Because they minimize extraneous details, there’s not much that can distract or confuse viewers along the way.

On the other hand, if you want to build awareness or share your brand story, 2D or 3D animation might be a better choice. Animation conveys a story and helps viewers quickly build a connection with a character. The style of your animation can evoke a mood or feeling in your viewer through color, speed of motion, and complexity.

Audience

Imagine explaining health insurance policies to a CEO at a Fortune 500 company. Now imagine you’re explaining those same policies to your grandmother. Do you focus on the same elements, use the same words, choose the same examples to illustrate your points?

Probably not.

You tailor your message to your audience. You should do the same with your video style.  

Hopefully, your marketing team already has customer personas in place. Think about which ones you are trying to reach. What style of video is most likely to help them connect with your message?

For example, a retiree might be more comfortable watching live action while the CEO might prefer a whiteboard video.

Budget

Different video styles can have different price points. Consider whether you’ll have to pay actors or need a series of complex settings. Will you need to hire animators? Script writers? Designers?

Generally speaking, animation is less expensive than live action, but it depends on the complexity of your video. If you’re shooting on a phone camera at your office with your employees as actors, that might actually be cheaper—and better suited to the story, if you’re trying to create a relaxed, informal brand video to connect with customers. Speaking of brand…

Brand Identity

Finally, ask yourself if the style you’re considering fits your brand identity. If you’re running a professional staffing agency for finance companies, stop motion might be a little too whimsical to fit in with the rest of your branding. Yet it could be a perfect style for a toy company.

Choosing a video style that doesn’t fit with your overall brand identity creates cognitive dissonance for your viewer. They might not be able to name exactly what’s wrong, but it can erode trust and create unease. On the other hand, maintaining brand consistency can lead to a 23% boost in average revenue according to a Demand Metric survey.

Choose a video style that fits in with your other branding and marketing efforts to get the best return on investment from your video.

Professional Help

If you’ve suddenly realized that choosing a video style is more important than you thought, don’t worry, we’re here to help, whether you simply need an affirmation of your instinct or someone to completely take care of it for you. Contact us today to start planning your video.

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