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6 Animation Styles That Can Work For Any Brand!

Every year the number of businesses using video marketing seems to be growing. Businesses and brands of all sizes seem to be harnessing the power of online video. Online video is a rather broad term however and with so many different forms of video that can be utilised to tell your brand story, it can be hard to know which direction to go. Do you go down the live action route or are you interested in producing an animation? A lot of brands tend to go down the animation route for several reasons.

 

  • Animation is visually stimulating:Let’s face it attention spans are at an all time low, its scary to think that you are doing well to captivate a viewer past the 8 second mark on YouTube. Its up to the brands to do whatever it takes to maintain that consumer attention. Animation brings movement and energy. It can be used to convey large amounts of information or to simplify complex concepts quite painlessly for the viewer and it does this in a visually engaging way.

 

  • Animation is great for storytelling:With so many animation styles, you can really have full control over how you want to craft the narrative around your brand. And also how you guide your viewer through it. I mean sure, you could just talk directly into a camera, but no offense I think people would probably rather spend the 90 seconds not looking at your face. I don’t know for sure though we’d have to run some tests.

 

  • Animation increases retention:A typical reader will retain 10% of the information they’re reading, whilst with people who watch an animation, over 93% of viewers will retain the core message. If message retention is high up on your list of objectives, which I am presuming it is, well then an animated video seems to be an excellent piece of content for your brand to deploy.

 

  • Animation is effective:85% of businesses we asked said that animated videos were relevant to their marketing strategy and typically performed well against other video content that they had produced.

 

  • Animation is highly versatile:Now we are going to get into this throughout this article but there are so many animation styles to choose from and to combine, that there really is no limit to what you can create. It is literally the most flexible form of media available to you and your brand. With animation you are limited only by your imagination, and perhaps your wallet! It’s free to dream but they don’t come cheap.

 

So, the next time that you’re contemplating your next video, just consider the vast amount of animation styles that you have at your disposal. Despite there being so many different animation styles for this article I will focus in on 6 key styles of animation. I have chosen these styles because of how popular they are for brand story telling. If you have come for inspiration I hope to not disappoint.

2D Animation

Now when it comes to animation styles, 2D animation is probably the most commonly understood. This is largely because the majority of cartoons people are familiar with, were originally created using the traditional form of animation which involved creating your images in a two dimensional environment. The animator only needs to worry about two dimensions, width and height, when it comes to effectively communicating a story.

2D animation was invented back in the late 1800s, however the technology used to create 2D animation has totally changed today, allowing animators to take this animation style to entirely new levels. If you really want to see just how far we have come in the 2D arena, just look at the difference in quality between the original 2D animated Snow White and the newer episodes of The Simpsons or Family Guy.

“Breaking Down Walls” – Airbnb

This animation from Airbnb is a great example of how animation can be used for compelling storytelling. What makes it particularly special is that it features the true story of a real Airbnb guest. This guest is actually the narrator for the voice over and she tells a moving story about her father, an ex Berlin Wall guard from the Cold War days. She tells the story of how she brought him back to Berlin decades later to replace his wartime memories with more vibrant and up to date ones. This video has had over 6 million views on YouTube so it must be doing something right. In just a one minute it tells the emotional story of a family, the effects of war and the strength of healing. It really shows the extent at which you can connect with a viewer through animation and how animation style can enhance a story in more ways than traditional video.

“Father’s Day” – Ford

Just like peanut butter and jelly, Itchy and Scratchy or lamb and tuna fish, dads and their cars have been infamously paired together through many pop culture references. This animation from Ford leverages a real customer story just like Airbnb’s, but this time it is slightly more light hearted and has a more humorous twist. The animation style works well with this, its vibrant and colourful and the illustrations are simple. It has a fun feel that parallels the nature of the story.

“Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships” – NHS

This informative but charming animation from the NHS was created to raise awareness and to publicise their new plans, a series of unique collaborations with local councils across the UK to drastically improve patient care and impact communities all around the nation. This animation is less about story telling and more about conveying information, or driving initiatives. The animation style is also a bit simpler and has more of a generic style.

3D Animation

3D animation is probably one of the more well known animation styles. With its additional dimension, adding depth into the animation equation, 3D animation allows animators to create some pretty dynamic 3D environments that allows story tellers to visually craft some highly detailed characters and objects as well as enhancing the overall feel through lighting and textures. The majority of movies that use animation these days would typically go with this animation style. For instance anything Pixar, like Coco or Toy Story 4. Let’s now take a look at how some different brands are using this 3D animation style for video content they’re producing.

“A Can Size for Every Aussie” – Heinz

In this rather odd animation, would you call it odd? Well it’s certainly tells a strangely uplifting story, of one bean lover’s journey through life. It’s actually quite impressive how much life story they manged to squeeze in there amongst the beans. But the animation work looks amazing. Who doesn’t love a good shader. Also keep a look out for how a nearby window reflects in the glass of a picture frame, the amazing amount of depth created with the shadows and the quality of the textures used on everything from the kitchen countertops to the doors. The details are impeccable. This is 3D animation done right, but I would expect nothing less from Heinz.

“App Launch Video” – Yellow Ribbon

Just like peanut butter and jelly, Itchy and Scratchy or lamb and tuna fish, dads and their cars have been infamously paired together through many pop culture references. This animation from Ford leverages a real customer story just like Airbnb’s, but this time it is slightly more light hearted and has a more humorous twist. The animation style works well with this, its vibrant and colourful and the illustrations are simple. It has a fun feel that parallels the nature of the story.

Stop Motion Animation

Stop motion is one of the longest standing animation styles and the technique has been used for decades. It basically involves moving objects a small amount at a time, and then shooting it frame by frame and then stitching all the frames together. Then when you watch it all played in sequence, it gives you the feeling of movement. Whilst this particular style of animation has existed since the late 1800s, it wasn’t until about the mid-1900s when it really became popular following some classics like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. There is an absolute ton of modern stop motion examples, one of the more recent favourites would have to be Wes Anderson’s latest feature “Isle of Dogs”. Now let’s take a look at how some brands have used these stop motion animation styles to reach their audience.

“Paper” – Honda

A lot of the best ideas started out as sketches on paper, and its probably no surprise that a lot of Honda’s innovations were no exception. That is why this stop motion animation has used paper as the primary medium to tell this six-decade long story. This video is like a pop-up book mixed with a flip book, rolled into like an advent calendar or something. It was originally concepted through computer graphics, but the final version was created analogue, which really adds that sense of warmth and added depth. It literally took thousands of illustrations drawn by hand and dozens of other materials. Not to mention about 60 odd years of Honda’s outstanding innovation. If you’re really interested in how this was made there’s a behind the scenes video

Corporate Video – Eurofirms

I think this could just be the most artistic human resources video I’ve ever seen. Eurofirms is a Spanish HR firm and in this stop motion animation dozens of different office-based materials were used to breath life into this corporate video. They then reinforce the core messages by overlaying 2D statistics giving it another dimension and making it more visually interesting. This stop motion animation shows how using different techniques and getting creative with materials can inject a whole lot of life into a typically dull subject.

”Last Glass” – Cravendale

This stop motion from Cravendale is absolutely brilliant. It’s safe to say that this animation wouldn’t have had the same impact if any other style of animation had been chosen. Like if it had been created in 2D for instance, I actually think I might have hated it, it could have ended up looking like some sort of Hanna Barbera reject. Or if you had gone all overboard and made it 3D, you would have just been throwing away budget. Anyway if you can’t tell I love this, it’s fun, it’s quirky, it stands out against any other video you may have seen at the time. And it goes to show that production quality isn’t always everything.

“The Bear and the Hare” – John Lewis

This is probably on the older side of things, when you think this was their 2013 Christmas advert and is now 7 years. But none the less this video really pushes the boundaries of stop motion. It’s absolutely phenomenal. The animators have paired 2D animated characters along with a 3D stop motion set. This creates a very unique feel and gives this layered environment which give the picture a whole load of additional depth and a magical sense of wonder. This is really what Christmas ads are about, highly emotive storytelling, and what’s nearly even more impressive than the combination of animation techniques they have used, is the way they achieved such a strong sense of feel without even a single line of voice over. Sometimes the most powerful stories need no words. If you’re as impressed as I am with this animation, they have an awesome behind the scenes video that is well worth a watch. Really allows you to see the painstaking dedication that goes into a stop motion production like this.

Animation Combined With Live Action

If you are on the fence about whether to go with a talking head explainer video or whether you should go with an animation, perhaps you don’t need to choose? These two styles can be used in combination quite powerfully and can allow you to show real-life situations with animated characters or else to use recognisable people in an animated environment. Layering on top of live action footage has been increasing in popularity over the last few years, particularly as animation tracking technology has become more widely available and user friendly. Let’s have a look at how some major brands have combined live action and animation to create some very impressive video content.

“Security” – Paypal

This video is an excellent example of producing a high-quality video to a budget by using animation. Not a small budget but it’s not like they’re making Avatar. Genuinely if Paypal had wanted to create this entire video with live action it would have been a full-scale Hollywood production. We’re talking like 6 figures. There’s sharks and aliens and ninjas, and the shots are pretty complex if you wanted to achieve them entirely in a physical world. By combining 2D animation you are able to still include the visual details but you only need a one room location, one actor and a jib to get all the required live action footage. They are also talking about financial security at the end of the day, and animation is always a great tool for discussing darker or scarier topics in a light hearted manner.

“Rewards” – Harvey Nichols

There is nothing I love more than a free content opportunity. Harvey Nichols have absolutely nailed this one. They have actually taken real security camera footage of shop lifters stealing and layered over some comical 2D animations. It’s just clever. Why not use the footage? It just works so perfectly as this animation is being used to launch a new customer rewards scheme, with the takeaway message about getting their freebies legally. Talk about two birds and one stone. Not only are the promoting customer loyalty but at the same time they are deterring theft.

“You Can’t Get Any More Ribenary” – Ribena

This one is pretty whacked out of it. I mean it doesn’t get wackier than that really. But it’s certainly memorable and was quite a key turning point in live action animations. This video layers animations on top of video footage to create a crazy and visually stimulating world with monster rabbits and owls with laser eyes and birds in top hats. It’s unquestionably eye catching and I feel that it would have resonated well with their younger male audience.

Motion Graphic Animation

Motion graphic videos usually involves combining animated graphics that tend to be quite factual and text based with simple visual graphics or illustrations. Traditionally animations would be focused on characters and the environments, whereas motion graphics are useful for breathing life into text that would otherwise not be very visual. By using different shapes, and graphics and mixing it with animated text you can create quite a content heavy but visual story. When you are watching the brand examples below just look out for how even some very simple graphical approaches can amplify the story.

“Communication Without Chaos” – Slack

Communication Without Chaos by Slack is just a fantastic example of motion graphics at their best. The main problem wit Slack as an application is that the problems its designed to solve aren’t really easily represented through animated character in an office environment. That’s why for this video Slack decided to refine their message and visually tell it through moving 2D shapes that are consistent with their branding and work ever so elegantly with the animation’s script. After seeing this it’s easy to see how often the simplest option is always the best.

“Product Video” – Abaninja

Okay so this one isn’t exactly a fully motion graphic based animation. They have combined quite a bit of 2D animation into it as well. This is typically the combined style used for creating most animated explainer videos for a lot of SaaS based companies. They use animated characters to create that connection and to make the story more relatable from the offset. Using characters allows the audience to empathise towards the characters. They then seamlessly blend simple motion graphics into the video when discussing the products features and benefits as it is definitely the simplest way to get those messages across that aren’t told through character experience.

“Make the Future” – Shell

Although this is probably the simplest of all visual approaches on the list, it is most certainly a motion graphic video, there is no doubt about that, and for that reason it has made the cut. Shell manages to tell a pretty complex story through the power of motion graphics, as it is able to distil the complicated concepts into easy to understand visuals. However, don’t just think this video is amazing because of its simplicity. The real magic with this video is the seamless scene transition, the consistent line art and the motion graphics eye catching colour palette that created this friendly and approachable vibe whilst remaining professional and trustworthy.

Whiteboard Animation

Whiteboard animation is a particular animation style that 9 times out of 10 will feature line art illustrations and also the animators physical hand drawing those illustration onto a whiteboard type surface using a variety of pens and coloured markers. This style of animation really blew up around the time that people started getting into YouTube around 2005. There is something rather captivating about the style and its great for letting the viewer both see and feel a story coming to life. This is a truly timeless style that remains a very popular animation style for storytelling. If you are interested in learning more about this animation style you can check out our extensive guide on whiteboard animation. Otherwise just keep reading to see some examples of whiteboard animation that really shows the potential of the medium to both excite and effectively communicate simultaneously.

“How to Save Energy & Money with Elevations Energy Loans” – Elevations Credit Union

One of the biggest problems for anyone making a video is ensuring that you keep it engaging for the audience. Generally, you are trying to keep the viewer entertained and invested in the story. This whiteboard video from Elevations Credit Union showcases how a simple whiteboard animation with not a whole lot of actual animation can still create a sense of motion and bring a story to life. It also weaves in a few elements of stop motion to enhance the overall feel of the animation production.

“Where Good Ideas Come From” – Riverhead Books

This is really whiteboard animation at its finest. I really feel that this style lends itself particularly well to fact based story telling that has an educational feel to it. It also is the most effective when the illustrations that are used have been created completely custom. That means no downloaded vectors that have been slightly tweaked to fit, even though they may be slightly ambiguous in relation to the script. You can just tell that more effort and attention to detail has gone into it and that really impacts your audience engagement as well as their recall of the information you are trying to get across.

To Conclude

The scope for these six animation styles is truly endless. Especially when combining them. Everything from a 30 second explainer video to international full-length feature films, animation as a medium has the capacity to tell stories of any shape or size. If you are planning an animation, take into consideration the following tips when deciding which of these animation styles is right for your brand.

  1. Consider the brand:Every animation style tends to have a particular feel, ideally you should think about which style of animation most accurately reflects your brand. For instance, is your brand have artistic attributes? Because then maybe a stop motion or a more intricate 2D animation would provide the perfect sentiment for your intended audience. In contrast if your brand is high tech or futuristic then a 3D style might be a more appropriate fit.
  1. Consider your competitors: The only way to stand out from the crowd is to know what the crowd is doing. Take a look at what video content they are producing and what animation style they may be going for. Make sure you choose a style that is different, and a better brand fit that theirs. It’s important to differentiate your content if you want to gain more attention. 
  1. Consider the budget: Now not all animation styles are created equally and as such this is reflected in their associated production cost. Whilst absolutely stunning from a visual standpoint, stop motion takes a lot of time and resources to produce. Whereas whiteboard animation can be created to be much more economical if required. It’s important to have a good idea of your budget before attempting to select any animation styles, otherwise you might end up with your heart set on something that you don’t have the budget to produce.

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