Tell Me Like I’m 5

Typically, explainer videos are created to be simple; they are here to take the complex and boil it down to something anyone (even a five-year-old) can understand in just a few minutes. We try and do this every day at LooseKeys. Clients come to us with their products and services that in some ways are confusing, but if you can simplify their message into an engaging story, anyone can understand then you’ve created a useful video.

There is a dedicated subreddit on Reddit to the idea of “explain like I’m 5” or ELI5. Reddit realized how powerful this idea was and even launched a YouTube series in 2013 under the same name.

So why do you often hear “tell me like I’m 5?” Most five-year-olds are starting school, and this is a moment where they are looking to learn and understand new things. At the same time they are very distracted, but if you can pull them in, they won’t look away.

Have you ever tried to pull a child away from their favorite TV show or movie? You have to walk in front of them or turn off the device to get their attention. Right there is something we realized at LooseKeys; it’s not only making sure the information is easy to understand, but the story must be visually appealing.

Take a look at what some of the kids are watching these days; kids are watching some pretty bizarre shows sometimes. They tend to be very creative and use lots of fantasy and humor to draw the viewer into their world. Understanding what is happening with cartoons is helpful since ideas can easily be pulled and borrowed as elements for explainer videos. One reason Brad and Jake do a weekly podcast called Toon Talk Weekly is to stay on top of the world of children’s programming. The two of them are then able to take these ideas and even be influenced by their visual styles and apply that to LooseKeys client projects to make sure every video delivers a distinctive but also modern look.

Adults enjoy deep, meaningful content but most of the time unless you can sit down and watch it at home, you just don’t have a lot of time in your day to immerse yourself in long-form programming. You’re typically watching videos on the go; while you’re waiting in line for coffee, on the train or in the bathroom. Those moments you have are pretty short. They aren’t times when you feel like starting a TED talk about the moral behavior in animals. You also want something easy as well as visually stimulating to take your mind off the mundane task of just waiting in line. It’s the same idea that many parents will use to keep their child entertained in the car, no one wants a five-year-old screaming for 10 minutes on the way to the grocery store. If you capture their attention using a short story, it’s a win-win.

When looking to tell a story, you should consider the skills you need to hold the attention of a five-year-old. Most adults are smarter than a five-year-old, but many of them don’t want to think too hard to understand how your new startup is using the power of blockchain technology to change the world. They want compelling visuals, and a story told to them that transmits an impression. After watching a video, you know it connected for the child when they want to start it all over again and watch it ten more times. For an adult, you know it made an impression when after the explainer video is over they felt that they understood something more clearly and then followed a call to action. You especially know that that felt viewing the video was a valuable use of their time when they like or recommend the video to someone.