Video Thumbnail – Important Yet Overlooked Factor for Your Business Video

When you’re trying to attract more visitors and customers, you tend to bust out the big guns. Any significant effort like that requires you to use a multitude of media forms. Why a multitude, you ask? Well, when it comes to arranging a good enough concept that will seem enticing, you need diversity. Having a text-filled website will cause your visitors to become bored, whereas an image-only page will seem bleak without content. So, what does that leave us with? The power of the powerful video, of course.

Videos for your website are mostly about two things – content and placement. To have repeat visitors and loyal customers, you need your videos to be content-rich, without any apparent glaring holes. So many marketers are obsessed with one-time clicks, and they forget about continuity. On the other hand, great videos often are at a disadvantage because of bad placement and sometimes, even when both placement and content are worthy of an A+, something is still wrong.


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In most cases, there is one single culprit for this mischief – the thumbnail. It’s the most crucial facet of a video, next to the title. It is the deciding factor whether or not a visitor will click your link or not. Even experienced producers and marketers struggle with creating worthy thumbnails. Let’s take a crash course to see the importance of having a right thumbnail and to learn the fine art of efficiency thumbnail creation.

The purpose of thumbnails

If you have a service-providing website, you will most likely have a landing page linked to your ad. Of course, your site is much more than that page, but you need a representative snippet of your entire body of work. This is why landing pages exist. Now, look at your video as a website. It has a multitude of information and content, but nobody can see everything beforehand. By creating a right thumbnail, you present the video to a person, so that it takes if mere milliseconds to decide to watch it.

To whom are thumbnails oriented? Some marketing experts urge marketers to create thumbnails mainly to attract new customers to the fold. However, as important as they are, new customers should never be a priority of any brand, regardless of their size. Thus, you cannot focus your entire thumbnail strategy to entice new customers. It has to be everyone, with a slight focus on your older and loyal customers.

The mantra that makes thumbnails creation goes around is – nurture and attract. See how the part about cultivating new customers goes before the part about drawing new ones? It should match your mindset. Focusing on a part and disregarding the other means stripping yourself of the chance to create a stronger core and hindering the growth of your brand.

Dividing your area of influence

Before your video play button gets clicked, you have to have an understanding of how a person gets from seeing a thumbnail to watching your video until the end. To know this, you have to understand both the psychological and aesthetical reasons behind the notion of using thumbnails as an enticing tool.

To explain the use of thumbnails betters, we’ve divided the area of influence into three subgroups – portrayal, excitement, attention.

  • Your video thumbnails must accurately portray what’s going on in the video. Even if you have mastered the art of video web design, you can find yourself on a slippery slope if you’re thumbnails are inaccurate. A boring video with an exciting thumbnail will only give you empty, one-time clicks. An interesting video with a poorly-placed/designed thumbnail won’t draw any clicks in the first place.
  • A thumbnail should serve the purpose of allowing your customers to feel something upon seeing it. The desired emotion is excitement. Intrigue, curiosity and slight anger can also be used to draw views. However, the emotional level of the video should be slowly lowered to evoke the feeling of comfort and pleasure.
  • To attract sufficient attention, your thumbnail needs to draw attention. You can accomplish this by making your thumbnail customer-optimized and different than others. In the midst of the design process, a stable basis needs to be enriched with a subtle, but noticeable trademark of yours. Something that people will associate with you.

netflix thumbnail

The Tactics

Now that we know the goals of thumbnails, you can learn the subtle tricks that you can use as a tool to accomplish those goals. Every tactic is either connected with portrayal, excitement or attention as we’ve said.

There isn’t some unverified hypothesis straight out of a lab, many renowned You Tubers and other content creators have employed these tactics to amass fans, followers, customers and as a whole – viewers.

Eye contact is the key

Eye contact is something that is our nature, as we have used it to communicate with and confront our fellow humans. However, we have evolved to lose this need for sincere and direct communications. Because of this, we perceive eye contact as an overly intense form of conversing with others

You can use this notion when creating your thumbnails. Showing your face in a close-up version, with visible eye whites, will be registered as unusual by people’s brain that draws attention. It’s all about allowing your visitors to read your emotional cues. Eye expressions allow this, especially when it comes to the more intense feelings caused by eye contact.

Follow up with strong emotions

Okay, you’ve realized the importance of eye contact, but you also have to follow up on the ocular message you’re sending out. This requires you to orchestrate the rest of your face to show off the same emotion to amplify it. If by any chance, you show insincerity by not having your eyes and face in sync, people will feel less inclined to watch the video.

Thus, your thumbnail should radiate with emotion too sincere, too effective and too identifiable for the viewer not to notice it. Such emotions trigger empathy in people. When they feel that empathy, any people viewing your thumbnail will feel more inclined to click on the actual video. Identification is vital; people will see you and them as the same individuals.

Brightness and contrast as your best allies

YouTube’s background is naturally white, so you would want to choose a color that will stand out from the more significant part of the page. Brightness is the way to go, as it will drive ocular attention straight to the smaller thumbnails. This is why your business video should possess a clear difference between the white and the body of the video.

Also, it’s essential to add a difference between the primary subject or object in the thumbnail and the background. This is why the color of the background should be the polar opposite of the central part of the thumbnail. If you want to make the center stand out, even more, try adding intense outlines. They give the viewer and illusion of an individual 3D feel, due to the difference between the object and the background.

contrast thumbnail

Text – information and branding

Some experts will tell you to avoid writing in thumbnails and much as you can, and we can’t agree more. The goal of the thumbnail is to create a visual sensation. However, you can always experiment a little and add an additional copy, aside from the title. In some instances, like tutorial videos and guides, the text is vital to the point and the effect of the video.

The main text in the thumbnail should be in three to four worlds, in a text that stands out via an outline and contrasting colors. In addition to the main text, you have included something definite that will make your video stand out from the rest. The ideal candidate for this is a small watermark that will become your sign of recognition. Older viewers will notice the clip as yours due to the watermark and watch it right away.

Additional tips for creating the ultimate thumbnail

  • You should always be consistent with your thumbnails. This allows people to identify your videos and you to use your distinct style to attract new viewers and retain old ones.
  • Optimizing for mobile should be one of your focus areas. More and more people are browsing the internet on smartphones, and you need your business videos to have small enough thumbnails for everyone to register them. Be sure to have an ideal measure for both desktop and mobile versions.
  • Mix complementary colors – colors that are opposite of one another and make the other color more pronounced. Just look at the wheel of additional colors, and you will have an easier time picking the right one.
  • If your thumbnail shows a frame for the video, make sure that you’re showing the most critical structure out of them all. If the video is a process, make sure that the structure a part of a finished product. People want results.


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Originally published on April 4th, 2018, updated on April 25th, 2019
The Blog

Video Thumbnail – Important Yet Overlooked Factor for Your Business Video

by Simi time to read: 6 min