Day after day, the battle for attention in the inbox is fought by a multitude of brands and senders. In the recipient’s inbox – where a large volume of emails pile up one under the other – every email starts to look the same. Subject lines resemble each other, and especially with marketing emails – newsletters – the sending times often overlap, so that they all seem to appear in the inbox simultaneously. Getting the sole attention of the recipient in this jungle has become a real challenge for marketers.
Rising above the inbox clutter
A strong logo is very valuable for a brand. It gives the brand an identity, creates consumer confidence, and gives the brand a presence. Who doesn’t know, for example, the swoosh from Nike or the apple with a bite out of it. For a brand, it is therefore particularly important to show the logo as often as possible to create a strong recognition factor with the end customer. BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification) offers a possibility to show the brand logo in mailings already in the inbox of the recipient, and thus stand out from the mass of emails. BIMI has two main advantages:
- The use of the brand logo in order to directly leverage the brand identity in the inbox and to increase the recognition factor.
- An additional technical possibility for the verification of a brand.
The gatekeepers on the road to inbox heaven
Both of these lead to improved acceptance of the emails, and as a result to improved deliverability, as well as better opening and click rates. However, before an email reaches the destination where the marketers believe it belongs – namely the recipient’s inbox – it has a long journey to make and a number of technological hurdles to overcome. Not to mention that there are several different players involved in the sending and delivery of that email:
- On the one hand there is the sender, in our case the marketing department of a brand. The sender has a great interest in their advertising message reaching as many addressees as possible and being opened and read by them. The technical aspects behind the dispatch and delivery of the emails are too complex for the sender, and are of little relevance.
- This is because this is usually taken care of for them by the email service provider (ESP). The ESP usually knows all the hurdles – such as authentication procedures – that an email must jump over on its journey to the recipient.
- Then there is the mailbox provider (MBP), who accepts the mail on the recipient side and delivers it to the inbox of the addressee. Or not, as the case may be: because it is in their interest to protect the addressee (their customer) as effectively as possible from spam and phishing attacks, and to deliver only those mails that are secure and relevant.
- And last but not least, there is the addressee, who on the one hand wants to receive and read their emails, but on the other hand also wants to be effectively protected against spam and phishing.
BIMI logo as both marketing coup and symbol of authenticity
Alas, there is therefore no way around technical conditions for creating the added value BIMI offers. The basis for BIMI, back in 2015, was the DMARC authentication protocol. To give you an analogy from snail mail, DMARC would mean – put simply – that the envelope, letterhead and signature of a letter have the same sender, so the recipient can be sure that the letter really does come from that sender. This is exactly what the recipient of electronic mail is unfortunately unable to discern without corresponding technical knowledge, because it is hidden in the email header – and this is where BIMI comes in.
With BIMI, the world’s largest mailbox providers (including Verizon, Microsoft, and Google) have introduced a cross-sector standard in email marketing. Emails from senders who use BIMI will be displayed with the sender-brand’s logo when the email lands in the recipient’s inbox, as long as they have successfully passed through DMARC. Of course, this only works if the receiving email client also supports BIMI.
BIMI therefore has several advantages:
- The brand benefits from greater presence and visibility in the inbox
- The ESP protects its reputation by ensuring that emails sent via it can be clearly assigned to a legitimate sender.
- The recipient can be sure that the email received really comes from the sender and is not a phishing attack.
The brand is thus effectively protected against abuse through phishing, which damages not only its reputation, but also the performance of its mailings. The concept is, however, not entirely new. Individual mailbox providers (MBP) have previously developed procedures to display the logo of a brand in the inbox of the email recipient. With mixed success, because such a “solo effort” is costly for all parties involved: Each MBP must maintain its own archive of logos and the trademark owners must ensure that all MBPs have the up-to-date trademark logo in the appropriate format for the respective MBP.
Giving recipients a secure feeling, while increasing brand recognition
All this is not necessary with BIMI. BIMI is an open standard that anyone can implement and use. BIMI builds on already existing authentication standards (SPF, DKIM, and DMARC). And BIMI offers a brand an additional marketing value through the multiple placements of the logo – something which will ultimately convince especially marketers, who have so far accorded little attention to compliance with the necessary technical standards for email transmission. And it is precisely these standards that ultimately make emails more secure, not only protecting the good reputation of the brand, but building on it and giving recipients a secure feeling when reading their emails.
Up-to-date information on DMARC, BIMI, and all aspects of email can always be found on the websites of the Certified Senders Alliance (CSA) at https://certified-senders.org/.
Sebastian Kluth is an email marketer through and through. Since September 2019 he has been working as Technical Lead CSA for eco – Association of the Internet Industry in Cologne. As an experienced expert of many years’ standing, Sebastian Kluth advises customers and senders on individual solutions in the fields of email marketing, email deliverability, and email response optimization.
Most recently, the qualified computer scientist worked as Teamlead & Senior Email Strategist at Return Path. Before that, he worked in various fields and functions of email marketing with the netnomics agency, with Gruner & Jahr’s German press distribution, with Emailvision, and with Otto GmbH & Co. KG in Hamburg.