What is BIMI and Will it Be Revolutionary for Email Marketing?
by Sarah O'Neill, on 14 October, 2021
BIMI sounds like the plucky little robot from a Sci-fi film. He's travelled all the way from his factory to save the Earth's last copy of Permission Marketing by Seth Godin. What a hero.
BIMI (pronounced bih-mee), stands for Brand Indicators for Message Identification. It's basically a standard that attached your brand's logo to your authenticated email messages. The main aim: to announce your presence in the recipient's inbox, and build trust in the messages you send.
So, this won't just help your visibility and recognition, but BIMI is also designed to prevent fraudulent emails, and aid in deliverability too. This is another element for building trust with your clients. And more trust means fewer unsubscribes, and spam complaints. Which also leads to more deliverability.
This improvement in subscriber experience also will increase open rates, and improve engagement with your messages. Which improves, you guessed it, deliverability.
BIMI, as a result, gives senders control over their brand representation with their email marketing.
So, basically, with BIMI you can:
- Display your logos on your emails
- Control which logos are displayed in your messages
- Improve brand recognition and user experience
With a goal to improve the ecosystem for everyone, BIMI enables brands to deliver their logos alongside email messages to billions of inboxes worldwide, increasing customer engagement with those messages and boosting brand trust.
For the brand's logo to be displayed, the email must pass DMARC authentication checks, ensuring that the organization's domain has not been impersonated. By displaying the sending company's logo next to an email, BIMI provides a visual cue to the recipient that the email has been authenticated and the sender is not spoofed."
Valilmail's Chief Product Officer and chairman of the AuthIndicators Working Group
"What's the point in all this?" I hear you say. "Email is just sooo 2000". Oh, you couldn't be more wrong. In fact, email is still one of the most effective channels. Email generates $42 for every $1 spent which is an astounding 4,2000% ROI. So it may be old, but it's not old hat.
But remember, all of this is very much in an experimental phase. Only a few email services have the standard full integrated, missing a couple of those integral big-hitters.
Supported email accounts
Currently, not all mailbox providers support BIMI. But with a few big names jumping aboard, it won't be long until they do. This is the state of the field right now:
- Verizon Media Group: Yahoo, AOL, Netscape (BIMI Supported)
- Gmail: Gmail, Google Workspaces (BIMI Supported)
- Fastmail: Fastmail, Pobox (BIMI Supported)
- Yahoo: Pilot publicly available with no VMC requirement (right now)
- AOL: Pilot publicly available with no VMC requirement (right now)
- Netscape: Pilot publicly available with no VMC requirement (right now)
- Comcast: In the planning stages
- Microsoft: No BIMI support
How does BIMI work?
When a prospect receives an email, their email provider will check up on whether it's been authenticated.
In the past, we've relied on three popular methods; SPF, DKIM, and DMARC. So, if you've got these, do you really need BIMI? Well, let's have a look into the comparisons:
- BIMI: Adds your logo onto your emails, so subscribers can identify your messages.
- SPF: Authenticates your email, in order to allow the identification of the mail servers that can send emails from a specific domain.
- DKIM: Adds a digital signature to emails, to verify your domain with inbox providers, to show you're responsible for the content of the email.
- DMARC: Communicates to inbox providers on how to handle emails that aren't authenticated by DKIM or SPF.
Each of these methods relies on a text record that is stored on your email servers, and allows customers to check that the email has come from a trusted source.
BIMI works in a similar way, in that it proves that you are this trusted source. But it also has one more additional advantage; your logo being front-and-centre.
So, what are the requirements for BIMI?
To enable BIMI, you'll need to have the following requirements in place:
- A DMARC record with a 'quarantine' or 'reject' policy in place.
- A good sender reputation, and recognition as a bulk sender
- Another Domain Name System record - the BIMI Assertion Record. This'll contain the link to the image, in a SVG format, that'll be used.
This TXT record needs to be placed as (for example)
BIMI works like this for the receiver, according to Mailhardener:
- An email is received from domain.com.
- The email is checked for DMARC alignment against the DMARC policy as published by the domain.
- The receiving system checks for the existence of a BIMI DNS record at domain.com, using the selector found in the BIMI email headers.
- The receiving system downloads and verifies the Verified Mark certificate (VMC) from the location supplied in the DNS record. The certificate must be from a trusted authority, and match domain.com.
If all previous steps pass, the SVG brand indicator found in the VMC is displayed as brand indicator in the mailbox of the receiver.
Okay, enough of the technical stuff. We want to know the benefits for email marketers. Well, let's ask:
How can BIMI logos increase trust in email?
Google's Wei Chuang and Neil Kumaran suggest that "BIMI provides email recipients and email security systems increased confidence in the source of emails, and enables senders to provide their audience with a more immersive experience.
This is just the start for BIMI. The standard expects to expand support across logo types and validators. For logo validation, BIMI is starting by supporting the validation of trademarked logos, since they are a common target of impersonation."
BIMI is basically designed to use brand logos to help reduce fraud in email. Plus, it provides a benefit to marketing teams who are itching to slap the company logo on everything. Both of these techniques build trust, and brand recognition, between company and client.
And while, currently, a number of email clients already try to pull logos into the inbox, there's not a lot of control for you as a brand. They'll collect a logo or imagery, without your explicit input.
However, with BIMI, you have direct control over which logo is displayed, meaning that your marketing team has the chance to display this logo, and keep it brand relevant. So, you can control both the logo and your customer's experience, which also creates trust.
So, let's have a deeper look into the benefits. How else does BIMI benefit email marketers? Well it can:
Leverage behind-the-scenes security updates
You can't have BIMI without DMARC implementation. So, if you want to display your logo in inbox providers automatically, you need to make some behind the scenes changes. This means you can protect your brand reputation and make sure nobody is impersonating your domain.
Improve email deliverability
Like we've mentioned before, BIMI improves email delivery, and particularly when conducting outreach. This helps get your emails in front of readers, and improves open rates. It's the difference between opening an email from Uber and "uber". Plus, having your logo front and centre keeps your brand's visibility high. Remember:
Help subscribers avoid phishing attempts
One argument for BIMIs is the idea that it makes your customers more able to recognise which messages are from you, and which aren't. In the end, this protects them from messages that aren't legit. In fact, the BIMI framework has protections against illegitimate senders who try to steal logos, and utilise them. So, at-risk businesses like banks, social platforms, and retailers, can feel a little more relaxed.
Make messages stand out
Okay, something a little less high-stakes here. But something that can make a big ol' difference. Just have a look at the image below to see the instant difference between un-logoed emails, and logo-ed emails:
Just catching your prospect's eye for that half a second more will increase brand reputation and open rates.
Help established brands
Email deliverability can be improved easily through a few steps, including using BIMI. But most spam filters, and especially corporate servers' spam filters, will mark unauthenticated emails as spam. So, being branded in this way can really damage your B2B marketing. By introducing BIMI, you can avoid this, and improve your deliverability, and ultimately your open rates.
One of the trickiest tasks facing start-ups is to make sure their brand logo and identity is constant across all marketing channels. So, this might include; website, email, social media, blogging platform etc. etc. So, BIMI is essential in keeping this recognition in your email marketing. This way, the clients you contact through email will be able to instantly recognise your logo and email. And with start-ups, we know how important this initial relationship building is.