12 brands that are killing it on Instagram

While Instagram(opens in a new tab or window) used to be a place for sharing images of your cute dog or cafe breakfast with your friends, there’s no doubt that it’s now the world’s most powerful marketing tool.

For companies, the app is a platform where they can not only consolidate their brand aesthetic, but engage in a direct conversation with consumers. Brands that don’t include Instagram as part of their marketing strategy are missing out on a pivotal opportunity to build trust and rapport with their audience. Not only that, but the introduction of the shoppable feature on Instagram transforms it into a e-commerce platform where customers can purchase your products directly off your posts.

Unlike most other marketing avenues, Instagram is almost entirely image-driven. For this reason, it becomes even more crucial to have an eye-catching and consistent feed that immediately hooks in your customer. Here, we delve into 12 of the world’s biggest and most effective brands on Instagram, what they’re doing right and how you can use Canva’s design tools to replicate that in your own feed.

With over 160,000 Instagram followers, American digital media company Brit+Co(opens in a new tab or window) have positioned themselves as industry leaders in craft, online DIY classes and all things creative. Their feed is all about fun, colorful images and hand-written or quirky quote tiles.

“Brit+Co has a broad color palette, but obviously plan their feed’s images in advance to ensure all of their colors are featured and no two side-by-side images are the same,” says Kira Hyde, branding strategist and designer at Kira Hyde Creative(opens in a new tab or window). “One way you can replicate this yourself in Canva is by creating patterned backgrounds.”

Try it yourself: Place a block color down first, then overlay the image(opens in a new tab or window) with various images, shapes, and lines in different shades on top. Then, place your quote over the background and use a color that stands out against the background, so it’s bold and readable. Play around with different fonts, reconfigure the background and change the colors so no two graphics in your feed look the same.

US based supplement company Onnit(opens in a new tab or window)’s brand is focused around one mission: Total Human Optimisation. They use their platform as a means of providing value to their audience through informative posts and videos, more so than a purely aesthetic focus. That said, a cornerstone of their feed is the tiles they use to both inspire through relevant health, fitness and mindset quotes and graphics to introduce new products.

“The key to replicating the feel of these is using a high quality photo with some space for some text, then adding the text in the form of a inspirational quote or introducing a product,” says Nick Clark, a graphic and website designer at Nick Clark Design(opens in a new tab or window). “Their branding is centred around strongly contrasting black and white, and a heavy weighted sans serif typeface.”

Privacy Please is an American women’s clothing brand who have managed to build large fan base through their well-curated Instagram feed—even without their own website! While they feature a wide variety of images throughout their feed, what remains consistent is the use of image filters to maintain a warm and almost Polaroid-esque aesthetic through every image.

Try it yourself: “You’ll notice that every image has the temperature heightened to enhance the tan of each woman or the glow of each scene,” Kira Hyde says. “If you were to recreate these in Canva, you would turn the temperature up so the images are warm instead of cool.” This can be achieved on Canva by changing the filter or manually adjusting the temperature in advanced settings.

Coffee and nutritional supplement company Bulletproof(opens in a new tab or window) have three main elements that make their feed so effective—simple images, a minimalistic but striking color scheme and uniform quote tiles to break up their feed.

Try it yourself: “To replicate their style of quotes, simply choose a template using a bold weight sans serif font for your quote (they use Gotham), a flat color background and a color for the quote that contrasts strongly against the background color,” says Nick Clark. “The orange and white combo they use contrasts strongly against the rest of the feed, which does a great job of breaking it up the other images” When used in conjunction with visually simple images, it gives the feed an aesthetically-pleasing, minimalistic effect.

French company Sephora(opens in a new tab or window) is one of the world’s largest beauty chains, with online and global stores that carry over 300 makeup, skincare and haircare labels. Their Instagram feed is all about creative product placement and highlighting the glam factor in every image. By featuring the products in new and unique ways, they draw in their audience and show off the individual ‘personality’ that each product has.

Try it yourself: “One way a product-based business can replicate this is by taking product photos with different backdrops, fun props and from different angles,” says Kira Hyde. “Mix the final images up in blocks of nine so you have a variety of colors being used and throw in a quote tile made in Canva with bold lettering to have a call-to-action for those that need a nudge to know how fabulous your products are.”

Kate Spade New York(opens in a new tab or window) is an international retailer of luxury handbags, clothing, jewellery and accessories for women. Their Instagram feed is suitably feminine and playful, featuring shades of pink as the main feature color, with blue, green and purple to compliment.

Try it yourself: “You’ll find that even though there is so much going on visually, the images are all tied together by the the same color palette and the classic serif font, ITC New Baskerville Roman,” says Kira Hyde. “To recreate the quote graphics in Canva, you’d choose bold colours for the background and a choose one serif font and mix the words up with italics and capitals to make each word stand out.”

As the world’s largest e-commerce website for handmade and vintage items, Etsy(opens in a new tab or window) requires no introduction. They have amassed 1.7 million followers on their Instagram, where they showcase the creative work of independent designers.

“Etsy curates their feed by using images with mostly neutral colours as the background,” says Kira Hyde. “It has an overall eclectic aesthetic with lots of natural light throughout the feed.” Kira notes that for every nine or so images, there will be two to three graphics with bold colored backgrounds. “To recreate this in Canva, I would focus on making fun graphic patterns with hand drawn icons and images.”

Hiking pack company Osprey(opens in a new tab or window) have managed to amass over 300,000 Instagram followers, thanks to their visually enticing feed. Their feed incites a feeling of adventure and wanderlust, through images of customers in nature using their packs. They often use quote tiles with a graduated effect to break up their feed and promote a call to action, while maintaining their rustic color scheme.

“This graduated effect is great if you need to get your text or logo to read on an image but don’t want to obstruct the entire image,” says Nick Clark. “Using this method also gives you the flexibility to play with different colours for different moods, as well as different blending modes and transparency settings.” Throw in the ability to add filters to the original image and the combination of all these variables gives you complete control to get your final artwork on brand and exactly how you want it. You can add a gradient to your image by searching for a ‘gradient background’ in Canva and dragging it onto your design.

Halo Top Australia(opens in a new tab or window)’s feed is an absolute feast for the eyes—and not just because it makes you hungry for ice cream. One thing they do extremely well is playing with different colors, textures and shapes to create impactful designs. You can achieve a similar effect in Canva by using templates that use shapes and diagonal lines to break up their images.

Kira Hyde also notes that despite keeping things varied, Halo Top has one main consistent element throughout their entire feed and that’s their beautifully branded (and delicious) product—the ice cream tubs with gold features. “The great thing about having one key branded element throughout every image means that you can be more creative with how you style the background,” Kira says. “Whether it’s a photo or a digital graphic, each image is automatically branded and without realising it, you’re gaining a huge level of trust from your audience while appearing to various demographics.”

It’s not hard to see why the Instagram account of US creative lifestyle company Studio DIY(opens in a new tab or window) has attracted more than 300,000 followers. Their feed is bold, bright, fun and kinda just feels like a party. However, despite the kooky ‘anything goes’ vibe, their feed has been carefully curated for maximum impact. Although they use a wide spectrum of colors, these have been dispersed to ensure that no two side-by-side images look exactly the same. There is also a running rainbow theme throughout. Canva users can achieve a similar effect by choosing 1 to 2 bold primary colors for their brand, as well as a few pastel shades to balance it out.

US outdoor clothing company Beyond(opens in a new tab or window)’s Instagram feed perfectly encapsulates a sense of adventure through their earthy tones and grungy images. They often intersperse simple quote tiles with text overlaid on images to break up their feed and promote certain calls to action.

“You’re not always going to have the perfect space to place text on an image,” says Nick Clark. “A great way around this is to evenly darken the entire image just enough that your text will read nicely over the top.” Some simple ways you can do this in Canva is by adding a faint black layer over the image, applying a filter or manually adjusting the brightness in ‘advanced settings.’

Canadian yoga-inspired athletic apparel company Lululemon(opens in a new tab or window) are all about instilling a sense of zen in their customers’ lives, and this mission can be seen throughout their Instagram feed. They tend to stick to a cooler, calming scheme (such as blues and greens) and minimalistic images featuring plenty of negative space. However, they also like to keep things interesting by adding unexpected design elements that break up their feed, like the above spliced effect.

Try it yourself: You can create a similar effect for your own Instagram feed by using a Canva template with a grid-style design. You can also use an app like Planoly to split a larger image into parts, then post each one individually.

While these 12 brands are extremely different, they are all examples of companies that have used simple graphic design tools to take their Instagram accounts to the next level. By using some of these visual storytelling techniques, you too can create a cohesive and polished Instagram(opens in a new tab or window) feed that leaves people wanting to know more about your brand. In doing so, you’ll build a loyal social media following of people who not only engage with your content, but are keen to purchase your products or service offerings.

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