What Is BIMI? And How Does It Help With Email Deliverability?

 

BIMI could be the key to increasing trust in your emails – through the power of your own brand logo. In this guide, we explain what BIMI is, how to implement it, and how BIMI can improve email deliverability.

Before we start, we’d like to point out that before you can set up BIMI, you need to have some other email deliverability technologies in place, called DKIM, SPF and DMARC.

You can read about how to implement these technologies in our comprehensive guide to DKIM, SPF and DMARC.

What is BIMI?

BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Implementation) is an email specification that enables organisations to associate their own logo with an email domain, and have that logo appear in the inboxes of recipients who use an email client which supports the specification. In a nutshell, it’s a controlled process which brands can use to add trust-enhancing logos to outbound emails.

From the recipient’s perspective, BIMI changes how a received email appears within a mailbox, such as Gmail or AOL Mail. Whereas a regular email might be displayed alongside a circle containing the sender’s initial, with BIMI, that circle can contain the sender’s logo instead. This use of the brand logo can increase the recipient’s level of trust in the email, which may make them likelier to open the email. This contributes to an overall increase in open rates for emails sent with BIMI.

BIMI is facilitated through an interaction between the recipient’s email client and the sender’s domain. When the recipient’s email client receives an email, it checks a BIMI record held on the sender’s domain, and follows that record’s instructions to display a certain logo with the email.

How BIMI affects the appearance of emails

BIMI affects how emails appear in a number of contexts. The exact details may vary depending on which email client and/or device the recipient is using – but the basic gist is that the brand’s logo is shown alongside the email subject.

This video shows how emails can look with BIMI implemented, compared with emails sent without BIMI:

BIMI can also add a brand’s logo to the message view for an email in a desktop mailbox.

How to set up BIMI

Before we walk you through how to set up BIMI, please can we just check: have you already set up DKIM, SPF and DMARC for your domain?

If you do not have these three technologies set up, you need to go and do that first.

If you do have DKIM, SPF and DMARC set up, then we can go ahead and set up BIMI.

The first thing you need to do is find or create a compatible logo which BIMI can use with your emails. The working group behind BIMI offers detailed guidance on how a BIMI logo file should be configured. While the official guidance on BIMI logo files suggests that the file must be in a Scaled Vector Graphic (SVG) format, some users have reported successful implementations of the BIMI using a simple PNG image file.

BIMI allows you to change your logo at any time – so whenever your organisation rebrands, remember to update your BIMI settings accordingly.

Now that you have your BIMI logo file ready for implementation, the next step is to generate a BIMI record using a BIMI Generator. This involves uploading your logo file and a VMC Certificate file, along with your domain URL. The BIMI generator will then return a BIMI record, based on your input.

Finally, you’ll need to upload your BIMI record to your domain’s DNS.

Here’s a helpful video tutorial that will walk you through the BIMI setup process in detail:

Testing your BIMI setup

Once you’ve finished setting up BIMI for your domain, you’ll need to run a test to ensure everything is configured correctly.

We recommend typing your domain into the official BIMI Inspector, which will help you to identify any problems with your BIMI setup.

What are the benefits of BIMI?

Benefit #1: add trust-enhancing logos to emails

From embroidered logos on designer clothing, to client logos placed in the portfolio of a B2B website, brand logos have immense power to tell people: this is a product you can trust.

BIMI is arguably the best method for getting your brand logo to show alongside your emails, thereby securing a higher level of user trust and encouraging recipients to open your messages. It’s a way to put your brand’s stamp of quality on every email you send.

The trust-enhancing potential of a logo is greatest when the customer recognises the logo, so be sure to set up BIMI with the same logo you’ve used elsewhere, e.g. on your website.

Benefit #2: stand out in the recipient’s inbox

Another benefit of having your brand’s logo appear alongside your emails is that it may help the emails to stand out within the inbox view.

Whereas some of the other messages in a user’s inbox will likely have a simple initial alongside them, an email sent with BIMI is accompanied with an eye-catching icon. This could help make your emails ‘pop’ in a crowded inbox.

Benefit #3: help recipients spot fake emails

BIMI may have the long-term benefit of improving email recipients’ ability to spot fraudulent emails.

If a recipient is used to receiving legitimate emails from a brand which come accompanied with a BIMI logo, those recipients might find it suspicious if they receive a fraudulent email which purports to be from the same brand but lacks the usual BIMI logo. In some cases, this may reduce the likelihood of recipients opening spoof emails, which is great news for both the brand and the customer.

Where BIMI sits in the email security ecosystem

BIMI can be a great addition to any brand’s email security setup – but it only becomes available when a few other email security measures are already successfully implemented. In particular, you’ll need to have DKIM, SPF and DMARC set up for your domain. Simply put, BIMI layers on top of these technologies and works in partnership with them. If your emails don’t pass DMARC’s authentication checks, BIMI will not activate.

The fact that you can’t implement BIMI before you have these other measures in-place makes a lot of sense, when you understand a little about BIMI’s development history. The BIMI specification was developed in 2020 by a coalition of internet industry players, including Verizon Media and Google. These stakeholders wanted to get more email users on-board with existing security measures including DKIM, SPF and DMARC – and they identified that an add-on like BIMI could become a highly motivating reward for adopters of the technologies.

The video above provides some useful background info on BIMI and its place in the email security ecosystem.

So, BIMI was always intended as an add-on to DKIM, SPF and DMARC. If you already have these technologies in-place, adding BIMI is an easy win in terms of enhancing your email deliverability. If you don’t have the technologies set up yet, BIMI is another great reason to do so (alongside the fact that DKIM, SPF and DMARC all make their own valuable contributions to email deliverability and security).

It’s worth noting that BIMI has not yet been adopted by all the key players in email. For example, there’s been no indication that Outlook or 1&1 will support the specification. Some mailbox providers which do not support BIMI have their own proprietary systems which domains can use to associate a logo with their emails.

Why email deliverability matters

According to Proofpoint, a staggering 3.1 billion domain spoofing emails are sent each day.

As long as email fraud remains such a widespread problem, email clients will need to take whatever measures they can to protect email accounts from receiving malicious spoofed emails. Unfortunately for brands that use email to communicate with their customers, these measures sometimes result in legitimate emails getting blocked or treated as spam.

Email deliverability measures, such as implementing BIMI, DKIM, SPF and DMARC, are the best recourse available to brands for increasing the percentage of legitimate emails which are successfully delivered. Yes, adopting these technologies requires time and effort – but the reward is that more of your emails will actually make it to the inboxes of their intended recipients.

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