The Anatomy of a Persuasive Whiteboard Video (with Examples)

 

You know how certain people love nothing more than to criticize and poke holes in anything they encounter?

The kind of people who would stare at a Van Gogh and go, “I don’t get what’s so special about it. I could paint that.”

People who would travel somewhere gorgeous… only to complain about the heat, or an unfamiliar language, or slightly-more-expensive prices.

People who, when presented with a sophisticated, brilliantly executed marketing campaign, would shrug and say, “Yeah, but the font on the sales page is terrible.”

We bet that you know someone like that.

Sometimes, even we put on our grumpy hats and write about how the world of business and marketing is riddled with mistakes: from writing copy to reaching out to influencers.

Well, not today!

In an earlier post, we told you about five things to avoid when creating a whiteboard animation video. In this post, we’d like to show you something different: what makes a persuasive whiteboard video.

We won’t just tell you, however — it would be easy, but where’s the fun in that?

No, we’ll demonstrate, using some of The Draw Shop’s previous work as examples.

Ready? Let’s dive in!

Persuasion Principles

Relatable character

Remember how we always talk about the importance of “calling out” your target audience in your marketing message? That’s exactly what a character in a whiteboard animation video does.

When they are relatable and likable, your whiteboard video becomes more credible by extension.

There are two ways (at least) to craft a compelling character:

  • Take your existing customer avatar and give them a name. To work properly, it should be a vivid, detailed portrait — not just demographics like age, income level, ethnicity, and other traits, but also psychographics. Beliefs, values, fears, hopes, you name it. It’s difficult to pull off, but it will pay off in more engagement from your potential customers.
  • Think about where your customers are in their “lifecycle”, and insert your character in the exact same situation. That way, they don’t need to have much in common with your target customer — all it would take is for them to look at the character and their problem, and they will connect the dots for themselves. That’s why “meeting the customer where they are” is a core principle of inbound marketing.

Note that having a character isn’t essential for a persuasive whiteboard video. Later in this post, we’ll feature an example of a terrific video without a lead character.

That said, it helps! And if you’re going to have one, you’d better make them compelling and relatable.

See it in action: This video for MacLeods Scottish Shop is a great example of a character-driven whiteboard animation (also, we picked it because we’re partial to all things Celtic). It introduces “Alec” in very broad strokes… but notice how the narrative puts him in the exact situation their target audience faces — shopping for a kilt and getting extremely frustrated.

And that’s enough for a compelling video!

Clearly defined problem

Nothing alienates prospects more than premature and overt selling. We perceive it as sleazy, pushy, aggressive, and profoundly unpleasant.

It’s a small wonder that one of the most frequent (and infuriating) mistakes you can make with a whiteboard animation video is introducing the offer too early!

Before you introduce your product or service as the right solution to your prospect’s problem, you need to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that:

  • You understand them.
  • You know what the perfect solution will look like.
  • Your offer is that perfect solution.

That’s why spending 40-50 per cent of your whiteboard video’s runtime talking about the problem and the potential solution, not the offer itself, could make all the difference between a lukewarm non-buyer and an enthusiastic customer who all but says, “Just take my money already!”

See it in action: Here’s how we applied the problem-focused approach in the video for Cars.Com.

You’ll notice that the offer doesn’t enter into the picture until late in the video — the narrative cleverly describes the problem and sets up their website as the solution. The explicit value proposition (“Whether you’re looking for routine maintenance or a big repair…”) comes into play much later in the video, and the message is all the more compelling for it.

Story arc

Weaving your marketing message into a story is a sure-fire way to make it more compelling and more memorable. Humans are hard-wired to remember and retell stories, and there are certain narratives we just can’t resist.

You can use this fascination with stories to create a powerful whiteboard animation video. It doesn’t need to be a Hollywood-worthy three-act tale of great adventure, either — just take your character from “before” to “after”, and connect the dots for your viewers using your offer!

See it in action: Check out this video we did for Ari Meisel. The script tells not one, but two profoundly engaging stories:

  • How Bob-the-character became increasingly more disconnected from his family and realized with horror that he spends more time with his iPad than with his daughter.
  • And how Ari himself overcame adversity and became “The Achievement Architect” he’s known as today.

There’s a clear “before” and “after” in both story arcs, connected by a compelling hero’s journey. It’s a basic story, but it enriches the video immensely.

Vivid, visual language

There’s nothing worse than animating a whiteboard video with a dry, lifeless script that doesn’t bring to mind any vivid imagery. It defeats the whole point of video!

Most, if not all, of the impact of your whiteboard video is going to be in its visuals. The best way to create a vivid, engaging script — that will lead to imaginative, memorable art later on — is to break some rules! Here’s what we mean…

Classic tenets of copywriting dictate that you communicate as simply and clearly as you can. No big words, no long sentences if you can help it. Every time you use flowery language, a clever metaphor, or an analogy, legendary copywriters of old are spinning in their graves.

With a whiteboard video, the rules are a bit different. Remember: we want to be visual, and bold, and striking. So everything is fair game, as long as it makes sense and paints a good picture: analogies, metaphors, occasional clever language — all can be used to create something special.

See it in action: Notice how imaginative and vivid this video is. In it, Joe Polish (one of the best copywriters alive) explains why selling is good.

He cites historical figures. He doesn’t shy away from strong words like “evil”.  He compares it to oxygen that keeps our economy running. He makes full use of what the whiteboard animation format is capable of, and the result is compelling and, dare we say, brilliant!

Call to action

Admit it, you saw this one coming! A call to action is essential for any whiteboard animation video that’s meant to urge people to do something: make a purchase, give their email address, call someone, download a freebie… You name it, you’ll want a call to action for it!

There is just one hard rule that makes an effective call to action: make it as simple as possible. Make it impossible to misunderstand. This is easy to do:

  1. Write down a call to action for your whiteboard animation video.
  2. Read it. Ask yourself how you can re-write that call to action to be even simpler… but still urge your prospect to do the same thing?
  3. Re-write it, read it again — and if it’s even remotely possible that your new call to action can be misconstrued, repeat step #2.

For example, “Sign up for our newsletter” isn’t a great call to action, but “Enter your name and email below to sign up for our newsletter” is.

Similarly, “Buy now” may look good on a button, but in your whiteboard video you should tell them explicitly to click the button, tell them what it is, and even what happens next.

See it in action: Here’s a great example of a dead-simple, low-pressure call to action — this video we did for NoFlyZone. The script could have said “visit our website” or something generic like that.

Instead, it mentally “moves” the viewer past the website visit, and to the one action that really matters — entering their address. The video does a brilliant job connecting the dots between that simple, impossible-to-misunderstand action and the desired result (drone-free skies above the viewer’s house).

Also, note that some whiteboard animation videos don’t have a call to action. Sometimes, urging people to do something isn’t the biggest priority. If all you need is create more meaningful interactions, get people to trust you, and cement your relationship with a prospect, a call to action could (ironically) get in the way!

We hope you don’t mind us showing off all of these awesome whiteboard videos we were fortunate enough to work on! But the truth is, you will notice these elements in every persuasive whiteboard animation video you watch.

As we said before, characters, story arcs, and even calls to action aren’t always a must-have… but you’ve seen how these elements can be combined to create a compelling marketing message. And now you can apply them to your whiteboard videos as well!

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