It’s easy to think of the digital revolution in terms of the internet alone, but it’s important to remember the unprecedented advances that have taken place over the last couple of decades in all forms of digital technology. If the growth of the internet and social media has led to the proliferation of online video marketing, then the advances in video editing and animation tech has ensured its quality continues to rise.
Animation in marketing isn’t new. It’s been used in advertising for decades, helping brands create memorable and enduring characters that shift millions of their products. Fast forward to 2016 and the digital revolution has in many ways democratized animation as a brand marketing tool, creating a level playing field in which millions of small and medium-sized businesses have the opportunity to create cartoon characters every bit as memorable as the big brand icons that have come before.
Yet animation is still grossly underused as a marketing tool by so many businesses today. It’s why I’ve put together this short guide to outline the benefits and power of using animation to build a strong and enduring brand identity, on and offline.
What makes animation so special?
To many people, the word “animation” conjures up images of silly cartoon characters chasing each other and getting into all sorts of scrapes. I call this the "Tom and Jerry mindset" and it’s often the reason so many business owners are averse to using animation in their video marketing, beyond a few graphical flourishes with logos and captions. Of course the power of animation goes far beyond amusing slapstick and visual comedy.
For example, the award-winning "Dumb Ways to Die" videos from Australian Metro Trains used animation to create a safety awareness campaign that is both uncompromising and unsubtle in its message as it is funny and attention grabbing
Watch "Dumb Ways to Die" video on YouTube.
The power of animation is its ability to be memorable in a way that “live action” filmmaking can’t. I’m not saying that conventional filmmaking can’t make for emotionally evocative marketing that sticks in the mind (in many cases it’s still the best approach). What I am saying is that, when used correctly and in the right context, animation can bring characters and worlds to life in a way that conventional filmmaking can only dream of.
Imagination is your only limit
Animation empowers the creative elements of your marketing strategy in every sense, vastly multiplying the possibilities of what you can put on film. Whilw conventional filmmaking is constrained by budget when it comes to working with large numbers of extras or far flung exotic or dangerous locations, animation needs only to embrace creative possibilities. In other words, the scale and scope of these considerations have next to no bearing on budget.
Secondly, animation is not constrained by the laws of physics. This might seem like an obvious statement but it’s a crucial point. Whereas live film has its feet firmly on the ground, animation can effectively do what it wants. Depending on the complexity, this again has little bearing on budget. In many ways therefore animation is only constrained by the limits of your creative team’s imagination and audience insight.
For example, Aspect’s animated film for the British Library allowed us to transition images in a variety of artistic styles into one seamless stream of movement that was unconstrained by physics or scale. Watch the "British Library Collection Animation" on YouTube.
Memorable characters that never age
One of the incredibly potent advantages of using animation is its ability to create enduring characters that are unique and memorable. With the use of colour and creative flair, animators can create characters that perfectly embody your brand. These characters needn’t be human either. In fact, from Ribena berries to Alexsandr the meerkat, some of the most effective brand characters of recent years have been anything but.
For example, compare the Market’s animated meerkat characters are amongst the most successful examples of brand marketing in the UK in recent years.
The enduring nature of an animated character is also something that shouldn’t be ignored.
Animated characters can be re-created time and time again by any animator worth their salt opening up endless possibilities. If you’re looking to create a character that is emblematic of your brand for decades instead of years to come, animation could be the way to go.
For example, the Ribena berry advertisements from the 1980s are stil going strong today and are another example of how animated characters can endure over the decades. Watch the video on YouTube.
There is a growing realisation amongst brands of the power and influence inherent in emotionally led marketing films. More and more big companies seem to be eschewing the traditional rational appeals in favour for storytelling that resonates better. There are several factors driving this tendency to some degree; such as web savvy audiences becoming increasingly cynical about traditional advertising efforts and the democratisation of video content through social platforms like YouTube, creating a bottom up approach to content popularity.
The primary driver to this remains the fact that emotion is key to building brand identity and establishing loyalty in consumers through positive associations and empathy. Numerous studies, such as this one from Google and this one from Brain Juicer (pdf), are providing convincing evidence to support this conclusion.
Animation has the ability to create powerful emotional hooks through the use of metaphor, symbolism or clever stylistic special effects and transitions without limitation. Animated technique, color palette, transition and other effects allow brands to paint a mood and tone effortlessly. This not only helps amplify emotional impact and power, it also provides a very distinctive look and feel to your marketing.
Whilw an animated character may never quite compete with the emotional appeal of an accomplished actor at the top of their game, with the right creative team behind them, a talented animator can craft a series of funny, meaningful or even sinister characters that, with the right voice talent, can quickly establish a distinctive brand image or get across an important message.
Make no mistake, there are many benefits to live-action filming and there are many advantages this method has over animation as a marketing tool. There is however still a tendency to dismiss animation outright by too many companies on the grounds of corporate image or gravitas. As we’ve discussed animation does both these things very well.
Another popular tactic has been to combine animation with live footage and this has worked well for many brands (the hugely successful meerkat marketing campaign being a case in point). The degree to which modern animation adapt and morph around live footage has come on leaps and bounds in the last decade or so. Whether it’s a cartoon character inhabiting our own real world to a human actor occupying an entirely animated universes (and every variation in between) we now have the power to move from concept to marketing activation in less time and to less budget.
About the author: Evelyn Timson is managing director at UK-based video marketing company Aspect Film and Video and has worked with well known national and international brands like The North Face, Samsung, TaylorMade, Slimming World and the NSPCC in the UK. You can connect with Aspect via Facebook or Twitter. To see a selection of their award winning work check out their YouTube Channel.