Why brands love stop-motion Vines

Stop-motion, the animation technique that lent a film like “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” its distinct feel, has now become the go-to look for many brands on Twitter-based short-video service Vine.

The stop-motion technique has become a go-to differentiator for a wide range of companies, including Home Depot and Dunkin Donuts. That’s because it’s not something your average Joe can do, giving brands a leg up in creating content that will help it stand out amid a sea of pretty creative consumer content.

GE, for instance, has used stop-motion for 80 percent of its over 100 Vines, using it for everything from Pi Day to explaining Sir Issac Newton’s theory of gravity.

“There’s a level of complexity required for stop-motion animation,” said Katrina Craigwell, the global manager of digital marketing at GE at General Electric. “At GE, we loved the craftsmanship about it and how it was a unique experience on the platform.”

Well-crafted, unique Vine experiences can be challenging to assemble. Compiling a complete animation by starting and stopping a smartphone camera and positioning individual pieces many times over — without messing up — is a feat. Sometimes, it can take days to create stop-motion sets before any filming actually begins. Making sure audio and visual components are synced up can be a challenge. And storyboarding and developing an idea can take additional time before production begins. 

“People are quickly becoming more and more accustomed to this type of content and are looking for different perspectives,” said Mandy Hunsicker, the senior manager of social media for Home Depot, which has made 15 Vines, 10 of which are stop-motion.

It also lends itself to brands for a more prosaic reason: Stop-motion provides the perfect excuse for casting your product as the star of the show. Dunkin Donuts, for example, usually makes Vines of doughnuts. During the Super Bowl, it featured a doughnut rotating over a football field, like a kicked football.

“Stop-motion Vines allow us to keep our product as a key player in the storyline in a fun and authentic fashion that our fans expect of us,” said Seth Klugherz, the senior marketing director of M&M’s Chocolate Candies, which has made 22 Vines, all but one of which are stop-motion. During the Super Bowl, M&M’s took a stab at real-time marketing by creating stop-motion replays of key plays. This is one from Seattle Seahawks’ Percy Harvin’s kickoff return for a touchdown that began the second half.

“Creating stop-motion animations with the Vine app is very easy and doesn’t require any additional equipment or post-production,” said Seth Weisfeld, the product design lead for Vine. “As a brand manager, there’s a lot of value in using the Vine platform to create compelling content and tell their brand story with fewer resources and smaller budgets.”

One major problem with all this, however, is there’s little evidence the approach gets more engagement from people. There’s not a huge difference between a stop-motion Vine and other content, like photos and/or text, when posted to a channel like Twitter. A recent Urban Outfitters stop-motion Vine posted to Twitter, for example, received 30 retweets and 134 favorites from an audience of 827,000 followers. Four other posts consisting of either text or photo content that went out around the same time as the stop-motion Vine received between nine and 68 retweets, and between 50 and 278 favorites. This GE Vine posted to Twitter received eight retweets and seven favorites from an audience of 187,000. Text and photo posts from the same time received between seven and 28 retweets and between 2 and 12 favorites.

“Engagement varies between every piece of content,” said Hunsicker. “We find that the quality of the creative is what drives engagement, no matter the type of media.”