What is a Kanvas?


That was the question going through my head as the Social Media team at my company took us through some of the latest platforms we would be extending our marketing reach to over the coming months. Over the last couple of weeks, I have been introduced to platforms such as Wishbone (literally the ultimate time-waster) and Kanvas. This is really the first time in my life where I am not learning about social media trends organically (my friends introducing them to me), but instead as an adult looking to exploit these trends to the benefit of my company. With that said, I wanted to introduce the class to the Kanvas app and some of the unique and meaningful ways companies could use it to reach their consumers.

I spent some time on the app this week and have to say that using it definitely was not as intuitive as Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat were when I first got started. I recommend downloading the tool, even if just for a few minutes to take it for a spin and see what I’m talking about as you read through the rest of the post. It is a great content creation app and makes it relatively easy to make some really cool visual effects.

My first Kanvas post – it’s a brave new social media world

The Background

screen696x6961Kanvas is an AOL-owned mobile app company that allows you to make your own GIFs, videos, flipbooks & more, making it an almost a mobile-centric version of the popular desktop-based site tumblr. As of April 13, the company had 3.5 million active users. It’s audience skews younger, specifically targeting teenagers. The app is a social platform within itself but is also used as a content creation tool to post to other apps, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. What makes Kanvas attractive is it’s (relative) simplicity – you don’t need to be a professional or even amateur to make really cool video effects and GIFs with very little work or knowledge. Recently, Kanvas has added a live-streaming functionality to the app. This feature competes with apps such as Periscope and Facebook Live. It also allows users to add graphic features and stickers during the live-stream process, differentiating itself from some of the competitors. As you can see based on the image to the right, this ability to integrate gifs and other graphics is a really fun integration into traditional livestream. 

The Opportunity

Social Media and digital technology has flipped the consumer-company power structure on it’s head. Before the internet, DVR, etc., broadcast was the main form of media consumed and allowed advertisers to reach customers that were going to see their messages regardless of if they wanted to or not. In the current age, we have plenty of ways to avoid advertising that doesn’t add any perceived value to our lives. We can use ad blockers on desktop and mobile devices. We can DVR TV shows and fast forward through commercial breaks, and we can simply avoid sites that are too advertising heavy. The younger the generation, the more likely they are to avoid, as seen in the chart below tracking ad blocking software use by age.


Why did I write all that under opportunity? Well the opportunity Marketers need to figure out is how to be part of a conversation versus just talking at the consumer. Apps such as Kanvas allow a brand to interact with consumers in a way that add value to their life by giving them content they want to see instead of just content the advertiser wants them to see. It is especially enticing considering the average age on Kanvas skews younger. As seen in the chart above, each generation wants less and less to do with traditional advertising, so the best way to reach the next influential generation of consumers will be through building relationships on apps such as Kanvas.

Companies can get in on the conversation by utilizing live streams, branded filters, branded live feeds with company logos and also with sticker packs (see the Dunkin’ Donuts sticker pack example below – shameless company plug for me!). Kanvas works with many of the brands to co-create content, which I think is definitely the right approach for brands. A lot of these new platforms have unique audience bases and targets as we discussed in an earlier class. It is often important that content is tailored to the specific consumer and feels natural on the platform it is appearing on.



Kanvas is definitely an intriguing app for marketers due to it’s unique content and specific and active user base. However, given it’s relatively low user base and strong competitive set, it is probably not worth a huge investment by any brand. Brands with the budget  should look to experiment with the effectiveness of this tool, but they should keep the resource investment limited, and focused towards the user base.


  1. cattybradley · ·

    Great post! I had never heard of Kanvas, but your post did a nice job explaining its functionality. I think the trend towards more interactive advertising is interesting because some methods are really effective, while others are complete flops. I am sure time will tell if Kanvas, or its filter function on live streams, is adopted by marketers and competition (Facebook, Periscope, etc).

  2. desmonco · ·

    Nice post. I always feel that same sense whenever I walk into a new office environment and there are five different tools they’re using that I’ve never heard of. (I often wonder if larger companies waste time trying to generate content for platforms that consumers don’t actually engage with outside of the office, so I hope that both of these work out for your team.)

    I’m interested to check out Kanvas, because it really does sound like a different way for marketers to push genuinely interesting content to users without making it feel like a heavily advertised experience. You definitely made a great point in that consumers (especially younger generations) will do anything to avoid traditional advertising. Sounds like we should all be putting more effort into finding apps like these that can help companies truly connect to their consumers in a meaningful way rather than ineffectively flooding traditional channels.

  3. sandytanny · ·

    Really interesting and informative post! I also haven’t heard of Kanvas before, but I would not be surprised if it is the next big thing. There is often the problem of new platforms being too similar to already existing, popular platforms, but Kanvas seems to be unique compared to Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc in terms of combining user-created gifs and videos with a live stream. The question now is if Kanvas will be able to attract more older users. If brands are able to see that Kanvas can attract older users, with greater buying power, it might just become the next big social media advertising platform.

  4. Great post on a company I hadn’t heard of before. Honestly, I learn about most of the new apps from students blogging about them for this class. Thanks!

  5. Great first Kanvas post! I’ll definitely keep an ear out for Kanvas in the future to see how it fares with its competitors. Nice post.

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