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A Comprehensive Guide to Making Effective Teasers and Trailers

Most content is crafted to satisfy its audience — to deliver all the entertainment, information, and emotion people are looking for, and hopefully a little more.

Teasers and trailers, on the other hand, are meant to do the opposite. They’re designed to grab their viewers’ attention and pique their curiosity. Successful ones give just a taste of what’s to come… so people are eager to go see the movie (or stream the album, watch the live finale, buy tickets to the show, sign up for the class, and so on).

When can you use teasers and trailers?

Teasers and trailers aren’t limited to movies. They can play a valuable role in any video product marketing campaign: for shows, VOD websites, online classes, Roku and Vimeo channels, etc.

Your top-level goal might be traffic, leads, or even customers.

Tips for making a trailer or teaser

It’s tempting to think of your teaser or trailer as a straightforward summary of the main content. However, your video will be engrossing if you treat it like an independent mini-story or experience.

To illustrate, watch this video from RIV, which publishes exclusive daily content from independent music artists.

The Instagram teaser pits two of its creators against each other — The Golden Pony Boy and Tray Haggerty — in a contest to create the best music video. RIV successfully pulls its audience in with humor and a strong narrative. Not only are you entertained throughout the entire 39 seconds, you’re also likely to go to RIV’s website to see the full-length videos. It’s hard to imagine a generic announcement video having the same effect.

When picking footage, opt for clips or “moments” that accomplish more than one thing. To give you an idea, you might pick a shot that’s both funny and advances the plot. Or maybe it’s simultaneously emotional and informative. Ask yourself, “What will my audience learn or feel while watching this?” If you can’t come up with two-plus answers, look for a different clip.

It’s also important to think about what will compel your viewers to take action. Your teaser or trailer will be essentially pointless if people don’t do something after watching it. Keeping that fact in mind as you plan, create, and distribute your video will focus your efforts.

Elements of effective teasers and trailers

There are five things every video in this category should have. These elements don’t have to appear in any specific order — in other words, you might — but it’s critical they’re present.

1.  An introduction to you or the product

Depending on how they found your video, your audience might have no idea who you are, what your company does, or how your product works. You might not want to reveal all those details at once — as we’ll discuss, mystery can be a powerful tool — but you want to give some context so viewers understand why you’re relevant.

This might translate to a quick introduction (such as “Hi, I’m James Bond, international super spy”), on-screen text (like “James Bond, international super spy” appearing below your face), or shots that help people understand what you do (think clips of you jumping out of a helicopter or rappelling down a building).

2. Visuals

Humans are visual learners: 90% of information sent to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 600,000 times more quickly than text. With that in mind, use text as a complement to, not a replacement for, images and video. Intersperse multimedia with plain text sparingly. As proof, here’s a nearly 14-minute video from travel blogger Chris LeBlanc. LeBlanc’s 22 Days in Thailand preview is far longer than the average trailer, yet it still uses text just once — a CTA at the very end.

3. Name and logo

Your name and logo should appear at least once in the video. You need to reinforce the connection between the story and your product in your viewers’ minds  — if you don’t, you’ll end up with an amazing video that the audience will love but won’t do anything for your bottom line.

Even Apple, who has arguably the most recognizable consumer brand in the entire world, includes its logo and the product name in its videos. Take a look at the last few seconds of the iPad Pro + iOS 11 trailer:

If you’re creating a trailer, think about showing your name and logo relatively early on so they’re top of mind throughout.

If you’re creating a teaser, where the goal is typically creating intrigue and drama, you might save this information until the end.

4. Social Proof

Social proof wields tremendous influence. If your viewers know other people trust, use, and love your product, they’re much likelier to buy it themselves. Try to incorporate some form of social proof in your video. That might be a testimonial from a happy customer, quotations from news articles or reviews, snippets from a review site, images or videos of people using your product, or your results (for example, “91% of people who take this course are hired within a month.”)

5. A CTA

A call-to-action — which gives viewers a specific recommendation for what they do next — might be the most important ingredient. All the energy and emotion your video generates will be useless if it’s not directed toward something.

Come up with a reasonable and logical next step for your audience. (By reasonable, I mean don’t ask them to spend $5,000 after a one-minute video. Instead, ask them to schedule a call with you or your sales team.)

Here are a few ideas:

  • Subscribe to your channel
  • Sign up for your email newsletter
  • Get updates about new products
  • Talk to a company specialist
  • Buy a product (if it’s not too expensive)

Whatever the end goal, make it easy for your viewers by

Teasers vs. trailers

Teasers and trailers have the same primary purpose — hooking their audience and previewing the full product or experience — but there are important technical differences.

Teasers are typically 15-60 seconds long, while trailers are 1-3 minutes (sometimes even longer).

Teasers hype the product. They don’t have to be chronological. Trailers, on the other hand, typically follow the structure and format of the movie/show/class/etc. They include logistical details (such as plot, cast, director, release date, and/or price) and, for movies at least, are filmed during editing or post-production.

Here are a few things to think about when deciding between a teaser and a trailer:

  • How familiar is your audience with your product and/or brand? The less they know about what you’re selling and your company, the longer and more detailed your video needs to be. After all, you’re not just selling them on the product itself — you’re also teaching them what it is and who you are. If your product is relatively new or unknown, consider making a trailer. If you’re already popular, a trailer might be better.
  • Do you want to create curiosity or desire? A teaser provokes intrigue and leaves a lasting impression on your viewers. In contrast, a trailer convinces them to take action. If generating buzz around your product is more important than getting customers, opt for a teaser. (To illustrate, imagine you’re launching an online course in seven months. You’d rather get press than subscribers since it’s so far out.)
  • What will your audience prefer? Some demographics like quick, snackable content. Think pre-teens, teenagers, and college students. Other demographics — such as travelers, people who craft, and cooks — go for long, in-depth videos. Chances are, the former will respond better to teasers and the latter to trailers. Consider your target audience’s preferred content when making your choice.

You don’t have to choose, if you don’t want to. Some creators release both a teaser and a trailer. Typically, the teaser comes out several months or weeks before the trailer. The trailer is released less than 30 days before the actual product to capitalize on the momentum it creates.

Or, if you are making a video for something that’s already live (like a call-to-subscribe for your YouTube channel), consider making both types. That allows you to adjust to the medium. Let’s say you’re promoting your YouTube channel on Instagram. Videos can only be 60 seconds long, so your teaser would be perfect. However, there aren’t any time restrictions on your personal site, so a longer teaser video is better. Plus, someone browsing your site is typically higher-intent (or more interested in your product) than someone casually scrolling through their Instagram feed who sees your post.

It comes down to resources. If you can create two high-quality videos (operative term “high-quality”), do so. If you only have the capacity for one, pick the type that’s more aligned with your goals, audience, and product.

Once you’ve made the call, it’s time to turn your raw footage into gold.

How to make a teaser

First, decide what mood you want to create. Because teaser videos are so short, you can usually evoke one emotion — maybe two. If you’re teasing a travel guide to Thailand, for example, you might decide to focus on “wonder.”

Meanwhile, this VivaOmm® video creates interest in its workout class by inducing envy. It’s hard to watch the dancers and not want to look like them… which makes you want to take the class.

Once you have an emotion in mind, it’s far easier to choose the shots, music, and text you’ll include. Keep each clip or scene fairly short — think three to 10 seconds each. As VivaOmm®’s teaser proves, fast pacing keeps viewers engaged.

How to make a trailer

The general concepts of teasers are the same for trailers: You still need to define a mood and select your material accordingly. But of course, the process of making a trailer is more involved. Unlike teasers, trailers follow a specific and generally unvarying structure:

  • The hook: This makes the audience sit up and pay attention
  • The premise: A brief section that gives viewers necessary context and fleshes out the “who, what, when, where, and why”
  • The twist: Something that complicates the premise and heightens the stakes
  • The montage: This part tends to be faster and higher-energy, which leads to…
  • The peak: This is the most dramatic, interesting, surprising, and/or emotional part of the trailer
  • The CTA: This brief conclusion channels the peak’s momentum into tells the audience what to do

Ink Workshops’ official trailer for Tony Hu’s Dragon Tattoo Masterclass is a good example:

The introduction is immediately attention-grabbing: A man in a tattoo parlor (who you learn is Hu himself) tells the camera he was confused and lost when he started trying to learn how to draw dragon tattoos. This confessional style is different and compelling. You’re instantly interested.

Then we move to the premise: text imposed on a plain background explaining what the man’s class covers and how long it is. This part makes it clear you’re watching an advertisement for an online class.

Next, the twist: Hu shows how his image of a dragon evolved over time. Clearly, this isn’t your typical drawing class — Hu has invested a lot of time, work, and passion into this tattoo template. Knowing this makes people more eager to sign up and also helps you see Hu as a true artist.

In the montage, we watch Hu drawing, talking, and explaining his process. Finally comes the peak: it’s revealed Hu has won over 40 awards and tattooed hundreds of dragons. He’s “revealing all of his secrets in the Dragon Masterclass.” Heightening the drama? We see a full-blown dragon tattoo for the first time. It’s fascinating to see the pen and paper version applied to an arm.

Following the script, the video ends relatively quickly after that. Hu’s statement, “I am Tony Hu, and this is my Ink Workshop” reminds viewers of the brand and helps the teaser finish on a strong note.

This structure makes it simple to put together an engaging, persuasive video. And it’s applicable to all types of products, industries, and companies, so no matter what you’re selling, it will work.

Good things come in small packages — at least when it comes to teasers and trailers. Use these tips and techniques to create a video that will intrigue your audience, tell them more about you and what you’re selling, and ultimately, lead to sign-ups, leads, and/or customers.

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