Humor or Inspiration in Explainer Videos?

Humor in Video Marketing, Switch VideoYou already know it’s better to create an aspirational explainer video rather than to explain what your product does. An aspirational video tells a story that effectively demonstrates the impact of a product on the lives of the people that use it.

People make purchases based on feelings and justify them with logic – a common adage in the advertising world not without a basis in reality. According to research cited by Psychology Today, a person’s emotional response to an advertisement has a greater influence on his or her intent to buy than the content, by a factor of about three to one for video content. That means making an emotional connection with the buyer is vital. How buyers feel about a brand is what causes them to act and make a purchase. So, while the facts need to be there, you still need to package them in a way that gives people a response. But what emotions are the right ones to connect with your audience?

Emotions Work for Marketing

The thing is, both humor and inspiration work. In an analysis of the top 10,000 shared articles on the Web, researchers from BuzzSumo assigned a specific emotion to each piece of content. Awe was the most shared emotion, at 25 percent, followed by laughter (17 percent), amusement (15 percent), and joy (14 percent). Only 1 percent was associated with sadness.

Other studies have similar conclusions. Quicksprout cited a study of images from Reddit users voted on Imgur’s top 100 images from the year. Content that arose curiosity, amazement, astonishment, and admiration were the most common.

All in all, the most viral content on the Internet fills viewers with awe, or it makes them happy. People do share sad content, but it’s far less likely.

The Inspirational Path

Take this video from Squarespace. The video follows famed free solo rock climber Alex Hannold as he ascends to the top of Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park, a mountain peak of 7,214 feet. With gorgeous imagery and music, the video is truly inspiring. Through the voiceover, the climber turns the hard climb to the top into a metaphor we can all identify with: It’s about working hard for something and then finally achieving it.

After taking us on this breathtaking journey, the climber says, “this is my story, and this is how I want to share it with people,” as the Squarespace logo surfaces. All in all, this approach is emotional and compelling.

The Humorous Approach

Most people have seen this hilarious video for Dollar Shave Club. It’s a great answer for how to introduce customers to a radically new concept: cheap razors that come in the mail. Viewers naturally wonder, can razors so cheap be any good? Founder Michael Dubin shatters our expectations by answering this question immediately (and somewhat irreverently) with “Our blades are f**ing great.” Dubin addresses the audience directly throughout the video and delivers punchline after punchline as the camera follows him around. The explainer video introduces the service with humor, creativity, and panache that you don’t soon forget.

Another funny and cool explainer video is this one for asset management software Panorama 9. The video takes the aesthetics of an 8-bit video game, complete with arcade game style sounds, to show an IT man navigating the day-to-day challenges of the job. The video is packed with visual gags that will delight any gaming aficionado, from collecting gold coins to fighting a level boss.

The result is more witty than you ever thought an explainer video about asset management software could ever be. Just another friendly reminder that B2B marketing doesn’t have to be boring.

Know Your Audience and Your Brand

In the end, what really matters is that you’ve connected with your audience. Not all audiences will respond to videos in the same way. A group of digital marketers might find an emotional video cheesy or overly sentimental. Another group of customers may respond more to an inspirational message than humor. Think about your brand. Is a laugh-out-loud video something your customers would expect from you? Would creating a video with this tone alienate your audience?

Regardless of the tone of your video, you can employ a key strategy to engage prospects. Both Panorama 9 and Squarespace use similar strategies to get viewers engaged: an individual acts as a persona for the target audience. There’s the rock climber, who stands in for anyone who needs a digital platform to tell their story, whether they’re a blogger or small business owner.

There’s IT Man, who obviously stands in for the IT department employees the video is aimed at. The video operates on the assumption that IT guys are also interested in video games. The premise wouldn’t work quite as well if it was aimed at a different department, like sales.


People tend to share content that they connect with, and they are most likely to share content that awes them or makes them laugh. So, to connect with your customers, is it better to inspire your customers or make them laugh? There’s no one answer. In the end, what matters is that your explainer video both speaks to your specific audience and engages them. A solid story with a buyer persona is really the key element to any explainer video. The tone that story takes depends on your brand and your clients but don’t be afraid to interject some inspiration or humor into your storytelling.

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