Brand Crush: 5 Things You Can Learn from Canva’s Marketing

by Katy French

There are few brands that have been as disruptive as Canva. The online design platform has put the power of design in the world’s hands in a completely new way, emerging as one of the most memorable brands of the last decade. And while their product is great, the way they bring their brand story to life is even more impressive. 

We were lucky enough to welcome Zach Kitschke, CMO at Canva, to the Best Story Wins podcast to chat about how the team approaches marketing, innovation, and more. Not only were we impressed by Kitschke’s enthusiasm but inspired by his insights into their brand machine. Let’s just say, if you want the blueprint to make your brand successful, Canva has it—and, surprise, we’re sharing it. 

5 Things You Can Learn From Canva

Over the last decade, Canva has invested in every pillar of their brand in an impressive way. The result? A powerful and seamless brand experience that converts people into users—and users into hard-core fans. If you aspire to get on Canva’s level, here are five ways you can do it. 

1) Build a culture that reflects your brand story.

Canva is an online design and visual communication platform with a mission to empower everyone in the world to design anything and publish anywhere. That is the North Star the team works toward each day—the bedrock of their brand story—and it’s something they infuse into their culture too.

“I think one thing that’s true for us is the importance of that story resonating, both internally and externally,” Kitschke says. The team does this by using a lot of visual communication internally and doing a lot of visual storytelling within Canva specifically. Per Kitschke, this really helps rally the team around that mission inside their four walls. 

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Tip: Your own company culture can be an incredible tool to tell your brand story. Try these clever ways to turn your culture into content on social media.

2) Be transparent about your beliefs.

A lot of brands wax poetic about who they are and what they do, but they don’t always show you exactly what that actually looks like in real life. Canva doesn’t just talk the talk; they walk the walk. This is evident in the way they tell stories about how they’re turning their values into action—even sharing data about how they’re succeeding. 

For example, to prove their dedication to sustainability, they’ve happily talked about their +90% decrease in emissions from cloud service, the e-waste management systems they’ve implemented to create greener offices, and their program to plant a tree for every paper print ordered on Canva. (Oh, and at their Sydney HQ, they keep rooftop honey bees that produce 500+ pounds of honey a year!)

And while this is all impressive, they don’t just navel-gaze about the good they do. They also empower others to take action around these values via a library of Canva templates to promote climate action. 

Putting those values front and center (and even using their own tool to do it via things like the climate action templates) shows a level of commitment and transparency that goes a long way toward building trust with both their customers and their employees. 

Tip: If you don’t have clarity around your brand values, see our guide to document your brand heart, then brainstorm story ideas around various pillars. If you need more inspiration, check out how other brands turn their brand values into content

3) Infuse your brand personality into everything. 

A strong brand identity is one of the biggest hallmarks of a successful brand, and as Canva is in the business of helping people create beautiful visual content, they know how much a cohesive presentation matters. But that applies to more than just the way you look. The way you talk, write, and shape your brand experience communicates a lot about your brand personality.

Canva does this effectively at various touchpoints, giving you a sense of who they are through a consistent visual identity and a brand voice that is friendly, empowering, and inspiring. This feeling is infused into their content and their culture, inside and outside of their four walls. 

For example, they call their employees “Canvanauts,” an inspiring and adventurous term that elevates their identity. And they share their adventures via Canvazines (monthly video recaps on their @canvalife Instagram).

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When it comes to branding, we see that many brands only think about adding personality to the big stuff, but Canva looks for every opportunity to show you who they are. For example, one benefit they provide is a special well-being allowance that team members can spend however they choose. Instead of calling this a “Wellness Credit” or “Employee Satisfaction Fund,” they call it their “Vibe and Thrive” benefit. That creative name instantly tells you who they are and what they value.

Tip: The content you create should accurately reflect your identity, but you need clear guidelines to help you shape that content. See our tips to create brand guidelines that empower employees to create on-brand content every time.

4) Tell powerful customer stories. 

If you want to convince people to use your product/service, you need to show off the ways other people have benefitted from it (aka provide social proof). Canva does this incredibly well, producing a variety of inspiring customer stories that demonstrate how well the tool works for people across the world. 

From real estate agents in Texas to news channels in Australia, their stories are particularly effective at blending real-world results/ROI with the emotional benefits of the product, communicating Canva’s true value. 

Beyond these stories, Canva tells larger stories about how their tool can benefit users. For example, they collaborated with Forrester Consulting to examine the potential ROI businesses realize by adopting Canva for Teams. Adapting these stories across channels, from their website to their Instagram, also increases their reach to connect with a variety of communities.

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A post shared by Canva (@canva)

Tip: Remember that the best customer success stories are, in fact, stories. Follow our pro tips to turn case studies into compelling narratives

5) Turn your audience into a connected community. 

Canva is a tool to help everyone design with ease, and Kitschke notes that there are specific communities that particularly benefit from the tool. For example, because visual communication can be such a powerful tool for education, Kitschke says they have a community of over 300,000 teachers who come together to share their lesson plans, classroom tips, and tricks with each other. 

Canva actively creates content to support this community, empowering them to succeed and positioning Canva as a trusted resource. They’ve created an entire library of resources for teachers, featuring helpful content like a guide to designing a lesson plan or roundups of the most inspiring classroom posters.

Kitschke says it’s been incredible to see that community come to life and connect on social media, not only by using the tool but by supporting each other. In this way, Canva has created an even larger support system to help teachers achieve their goals. 

Tip: One of the best ways to engage with your community is to encourage and showcase user-generated content. If you’re not sure what that looks like, see our tips to incorporate UGC into your content strategy.  

How to Build Your Brand Like the Best

Some of our greatest inspiration comes from seeing real brands bring their best ideas to life—and Canva is no exception. If you’ve found these tips helpful, you may also want to learn about the ways that other companies are creating strong brands.

Above all, remember that educating yourself is the #1 way to stay ahead of the game. If you want to hear more insights from the pros, subscribe to the Best Story Wins podcast, where we interview industry leaders about how they’re winning hearts, minds, and market share. 

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