Why is animated video popular?

Part one of a three-part series: Animating Your Brand. Learn about animation's advantages for lasting brand value and engagement.

 min. read
March 14, 2021

Modern animation is synonymous with popular culture

Animation is beloved all over the world and animated characters often hold a special place in our hearts. Animated characters and worlds are fantastical and immortal. They have a unique ability to distill universal truths about the human experience.

When you think of animation, what do you envision? Cartoon characters? A favorite TV commercial?

Some of today's most recognizable characters are brand mascots

Maybe you think of Pixar, a company who revolutionized film animation and originated the most popular cinematic animation style of our time.

In this three part series about animating your brand, we'll explore why animation works, options for creating animation, and brands that have used animation to become iconic.

Why do animated characters make deep impressions on us?

We empathize with characters. A lot.

Animated characters exude deep, human emotions. They're created with big eyes, big mouths, so we can clearly see exaggerated versions of anger, sadness, happiness on any animated character's face and movements. Their over-the-top expressions of emotion also means we can effectively read their emotions, and empathize with them very well, sometimes better than with humans.

Hand-drawn Tom and Jerry film from the 1940s
3D Tom and Jerry from the 2021 film

They are immortal and memorable.

Animated characters don't age. They can stay the same forever and remain predictable through decades, evolving and growing with culture. That kind of comforting repetition invokes a deep relationship that can last generations. Tom and Jerry was created in the 1940s and remained the most popular animated duo for decades. The strength of their relationship with audiences continues to this day, with a theatrical release in 2021 starring the 3D versions of the same characters.

Animation is extremely effective for engagement

1. Audiences want more entertaining content

Cultural evolution has profoundly changed the way audiences consume content. Technological progress has accelerated our channels, tools, and societal norms. Millennials who grew up during the internet explosion adapted quickly to social media, a lifestyle of constant connectivity and on-demand entertainment. Millennials also grew up with primarily 2D cartoons. Today, Millennials are now well into adulthood, with Generation Z (those born after 1997) ushering new expectations for brand authenticity, diversity and engagement.

Gen Z audiences are 3D natives. They are more tech-savvy than any other generation; they have a global view, and grew up on computer-generated 3D animation, from Pixar movies to video games. Photo by Helena Lopez on Unsplash

2. Consumers prefer video

Disruptive brands and creators are evolving at the speed of culture, focusing on delivering immersive experiences that inspire and delight in the new era of engagement. One key ingredient is evolving how brands engage. Animoto, a cloud-based video creation platform, dove deep into consumer trends in their Consumer Insights for 2020 white paper, highlighting the effects of video content in relation to consumer preference. They found that across generations, from Boomers to Millenials, the majority of customers prefer video content for product discovery.

HubSpot has found that 72% of customers would rather learn about a product by way of video. And SmartInsights has found that people will spend 100 minutes a day watching online videos in 2021. 

3. Character-driven stories create an emotional connection

Over 90% of Marketers report that video is an important part of their marketing strategy. Many times, video is used as a tactic within a marketing mix, as part of brand storytelling. Yet animated video content presents a new opportunity for brands, marketers and creators.

Researchers at the Center for Neuroeconomics consistently found that character-driven stories consistently cause oxytocin synthesis, the chemical produced when there is trust, cooperation, and empathy.

This evolution in consumer patterns is shaping a new era of brand-building through story-based video engagement. It’s an interesting reflection point to think of animated content not as a tactic, but rather a core business strategy. One that delivers an emotional connection to drive differentiation and diversification of content and narratives.

Brand innovation highlight: Puff Pals Animated Characters
Puffs facial tissue has been a household staple for decades. With a seventy year legacy, Puffs product offering was differentiated by air puffed cushions that promised to keep noses soft. Yet communicating this value in the highly competitive CPG commodities industry is a challenge. Beginning in the early 2000s, Puffs began further differentiating their product offering through brand storytelling with a cast of animated characters, the Puffs Pals. Originally brought to life with stop motion animation in the early 2000s, the characters evoked a sense of relief that was demonstrated simply and elegantly with cute red nosed characters. The characters evolved to 3D animation with computer generated imagery (CGI), diversifying the cast, and creating a durable brand strategy rooted in a character-based creative strategy. For over twenty years, Puffs has been using characters across channels, from above-the-line advertising to product packaging and channel marketing. Using character-based animation, Puffs was able to humanize their brand, and emotionally connect with audiences of all ages, underscoring their value proposition that a nose in need deserves Puffs indeed. 

Using animated video to grow your brand

Animation production can be complex, but it doesn't have to be.

While the benefits of video content and character-based animation are well understood for many brands, marketers and creators, the challenge has historically been less about the strategy, but more about operationalizing the creative. Animated content has historically carried a large price tag, left only for the biggest of brands (and budgets) to utilize. And yet even the largest brands still experience challenges with operational scale.

High-quality traditionally requires a big production team

Animation is typically outsourced to production studios who are responsible for bringing characters to life. Unlike graphic design where art files can be easily shared across internal and external teams, animation production has generally been a specific function carried out by many animation and production parties, from modelers voice-over actors, writers, 3D animators. Because of that character-based animation has carried a heavy price tag with historically long lead times. 

New platforms have emerged to make quality animation faster and budget-friendly

Technology has advanced. Machine learning and augmented reality has ushered in a new wave of tools to advance studio production. Platforms like Aquifer have leveraged these advancements  and developed animation creation platforms powered by intelligent film tools that are changing the way brands grow relevance and value. Hybrid business models like Aquifer’s creator team have emerged to help streamline the production process with tech-enabled services; marrying technology and your creative vision. 

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