How to Choose the Right Video Style

March 17, 2015

Everyone involved in marketing and branding knows that ‘style is substance.’ A single style never fits all. This is as true for video as it is for your company’s other marketing collateral. 

 

 

 

When starting Splainers in 2008, our unique ‘flat people in a 3-D world’ video style was so well-received that we didn’t immediately start exploring other styles. However, as we tackled more and more projects, we began to realize just how much an effect particular video styles can have on both message and audience.

 

Take our work for Adobe as an example. As the world’s leading developer of creative industry tools, their story is about amazing production values and cutting-edge technology. Our kooky characters just weren’t the right fit. So we enlisted a talented New York-based artist named Kevin Kobasic, who has created illustrations and animation for companies such as Nickelodeon and Marvel Comics. It turned out to be a great match.

 

We have since put together a team of crazy-talented artists that can pretty much tackle any style or media – from draw-through to flat design to live action.

 

When selecting a style for your video, it is important to consider the project objectives and how well the characters and movement will be received by your targeted audience. Moreover, be sure to think about whether or not the video style meshes with your brand identity. Below are some video styles and what they say about your product, organization and audience.

 

THE SPLAINERS STYLE GUIDE 

 

Moving Text

 

Pros

Thanks to companies like Apple, videos making use of prominent text and the occasional object have become quite popular. Done right, videos of this type can be truly elegant. With few or no people, they literally put the message front and center. This also makes them ideal for viewers who watch video with the sound turned off (work places and trade shows).

 

Cons

There are several downsides to text-based video. First of all, even if they make a good impression on the viewer, the actual content of the message is unlikely to be very memorable without the reinforcement of interesting visuals. In addition, text often limits your audience to highly-literate native speakers. Therefore, unless you have a top-notch copywriter on board, it’s difficult to produce a video that’s compelling.

 

Conclusion

Companies that use this video style are often perceived as authoritative and brand-driven. What they *say* clearly matters. They are either above petty imagery or everyone already knows their products.

Stick Figures / Whiteboard

 

Pros

Over the past 10 years, videos based on stick figures, amateurish drawings and paper cutouts have taken the marketing world by storm. Much of this is thanks to the amazing work done by Common Craft. And all for good reason. Videos done in this simple style clearly show they are on the side of Everyday Joe. They are fun and casual – two things most viewers identify with. Moreover, the simplicity of the characters places a clear emphasis on what is actually happening in the video. Lastly, these characters generally allow you to avoid issues of gender and race within your video.

 

Cons

Stick figures are sometimes associated with and irony and amateurism. Moreover, viewers don’t identify as closely with stick figures as they do with realistic or photorealistic images of people. Though these videos might seem easy to produce, they quickly unravel without a well-written script.

 

Conclusion

Companies that use stick figures in their videos are fun, practical and user-centric. They are young-at-heart and don’t mind poking fun at themselves.

 Draw-along Animation

 

Pros

Draw-along videos use a hand or pencil to show you in ‘real-time’ what you need to be looking at. Stylishly simple, they’ve become quite popular over the past 5 years or so.

 

Cons

While they do bring attention to a central point on the screen, it is easy for the act of drawing to become a kind of distraction from the key messaging. Like flat design, it’s also unknown how long this style will continue to look fresh.

 

Conclusion

If you’re going with this style, make sure you have a great script and are using an experienced producer. If not, it’s easy for the video to turn into quite a mess.

 

Simplified Characters

 

Pros

Splainers has had much success with simplified characters such as our ‘Flat People.’ By marrying simplicity with the ability to show diversity, this type of character borrows many benefits of stick figures while minimizing some of the downsides. Moreover, because they are created to be multi-ethnic and have recognizable facial expressions, viewers have an easy time identifying with them.

 

Cons

As with any set of characters designed to appeal to a wide audience, simplified characters may be a little bland for some companies. They also aren’t crude enough to achieve that uber-cool quickly sketched-out aesthetic.

 

Conclusion

Though they don’t always push the envelope, ‘Flat People’ are effective storytellers because they can carry the message without overwhelming it. Moreover, using them in your video costs much less than highly-stylized characters.

Flat Design

 

Pros

In all the creative industries, ‘flat design’ has been quite the rage the past couple of years. In addition to largely doing away with outlines, flat design utilizes a warm color palette and simple forms. This gives your video an ultra-contemporary look that connects well with younger audiences. Another benefit is that a hosted ‘flat design’ video on your website will often stick out and contrast well with the other content.

 

Cons

Like all trends, we don’t know how long flat design will be the flavor-of-the-month. This may mean the shelf-life of your video is shorter than if you go with a more simple style. Likewise, because flat design features corner-to-corner color, it’s more difficult to create a visual hierarchy that supports the central takeaway.

 

Conclusion

If your video is targeting a young audience and doesn’t really need to stand the test of time, flat-design is definitely something to consider. It will certainly make you look in-tune with current design trends.

Highly-Stylized Animation and Movement

 

Pros

The biggest benefit of stylized animation is that it can be tailored to your exact needs and brand image. From baroque to Japanese manga, the choices are endless. Character expressions and clothing can be done in extreme detail to show your company’s dedication to production values and style. Viewers often get excited when they see fresh and well-drawn animation.

 

Cons

A pitfall of great production values is that they may actually overwhelm the story or product. Excessive movement in particular is often a killer of message retention. Moreover, ordering highly-stylized animation may potentially add extra time to the production schedule.

 

Conclusion

Highly-stylized animation is for companies that want to focus on aesthetic. It’s also great for organizations with a reputation for quality and attention to detail.

 Stop-action

 

Pros

Stop-action marries the best of animation and live action. Though we can identify that the characters are real, we can use this technique to have them do some pretty unreal things. Stop-action also has a fun yet old-fashioned feel that delights viewers.

 

Cons

It is difficult for viewers to view stop-action animation as anything but playful. Moreover, the production process is not as easy (aka time & money) as it looks.

 

Conclusion

Companies that use stop-action videos are creative and playful, yet grounded in the real world.

Live Action

 

Pros

Live action is based on the world we all know. Characters and products are instantly identifiable. As popular as animation continues to become, it will never fully replace live action.

 

Cons

Location shooting takes time and money. Good lighting, editing and acting takes much more skill than people realize. The physical realities of the real world are also quite limited compared to the infinite possibilities of animation. Lastly, it’s easy for live action videos to become about the people instead of the audience and story.

 

Conclusion

Live action is great for interviews and videos that rely on real characterizations. However, it takes a surprising amount of skill and budget to make a live action video that looks polished.

To find the style that is right for you, contact Splainers at 425.890.4081 or info@splainers.com

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