Start-up Strategy: Explanimation

In 2010 a wide range of subsidies and incentives for renewable energy technologies came into force in the UK. 

The tariffs were incredibly generous and, almost overnight, a new industry sprang up to meet the exploding demand for installation. 

Some of the technologies, such as solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, were pretty simple to understand. Others, like Air-source heat pumps, were counterintuitive and the basic principles hard to explain. In addition, the tariffs themselves were complex, and the rates changed every three months.

Having already done some creative work in this sector, and with a strong personal interest in renewable energy, we identified the widespread need for small/medium businesses with limited marketing budgets to explain the technologies and tariffs to their customers.

With video rapidly ascending as the premium content format for online marketing, we created a set of renewable energy explainers using an clean, minimal 2d animation style. We devised a way to add customer branding to the videos, a custom online player, and a brandable video file distribution system. We created a licensing model that protected our IP but allowed for customised content and, most importantly, we updated the videos live every three months or when tariffs changed.

This way, for a simple, scalable monthly or annual subscription fee, businesses could show branded explainers on their websites and in face-to-face sales scenarios, with always up—to-date tariffs and worked examples of cost savings. This avoiding the one-off costs for producing highly-researched animated content which would then have to be periodically amended.

The service was immensely popular and, relying almost entirely on carefully researched direct marketing (for larger customers) and natural viral propagation (for everyone else), we captured a huge slice of the market and ran highly profitably for several years.

Eventually changes to environmental policy drove down (or wound up) the available tariffs – the industry shrank back accordingly and we decided not to grow the business any further until renewable energy returns to the UK government’s priority list.

Our Explainer Videos combined stylised explanations of mechanical processes with clear visual presentations of tariff data and calculations.

Key Achievements

  • Produced some of the most effective explainers ever made about renewable energy technologies across 16 topics
  • Devised innovative content-licensing model to protect our IP in customer-branded materials
  • Developed online app to part-automate video creation process and remotely manage access
  • Customers included UK Government, EDF, Wolseley/Plumb Center, Saint-Gobain as well as hundreds of SMEs