Despite a plethora of options for brands to communicate with consumers, email continues to lead as the most trusted channel for official communications. More than 300 billion emails were sent every day in 2020. To add a distinct trust mark to emails, the Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) standard has been introduced as an additional email authentication layer that displays the sender's display picture inside the receiver's inbox. BIMI is an open email standard that has succeeded in countering the rise of spoofing emails. BIMI empowers both senders and receivers by adding one more layer of trust to the senders' identities when an email hits the inbox.
A BIMI record (pronounced "be-me") is similar to a DNS record and indicates the brand authenticity of an email sender. In simpler terms, BIMI displays authentic brand logos on email inbox previews, reinforcing trust and relevance. BIMI was formed through a consortium of industry leaders in email technology that collectively decided to create a standard layer for a verified email sender's logo that's displayed in an email client-controlled space. Having gained traction worldwide, the BIMI registry helps people avoid opening fraudulent emails and simultaneously empowers marketers to reach their targets without landing in spam folders.
BIMI works on top of existing email authentication practices. For every email, the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and the Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) protocol ensure authenticity. Further, the Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance protocol (DMARC) authenticates both SPF and DKIM. BIMI adds on to the DMARC layer to authenticate the brand visually.
When a brand owner designates the path for the brand logo as a specified scalable vector graphics (SVG) format in the DNS record, email service providers that support BIMI simply fetch the logo to display in the inbox of the receiver. The substantial cost that senders now spend for BIMI registrations is expected to decrease as market adoption increases. BIMI is now being offered only to trademark registered companies, but other companies may be eligible in the future.
Not yet. Only a few inbox and email service providers support BIMI as of today. As of mid-2021, Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Fastmail, and a few other email providers have launched pilots to support BIMI, and it's expected to scale in the coming years. Please note: Microsoft has a BIMI equivalent in its Microsoft 365 services called the Microsoft business profiles. BIMI is vendor-neutral and should not be considered as a competitor to Microsoft's initiative.
As email marketing yields high returns on investment, email continues to be the most preferred medium of brand communications. Therefore, any effort towards strengthening brand presence and authenticity is bound to increase customer trust. The very act of trusting an email before opening it is a bottleneck many brands struggle to get past. BIMI acts as a standard that establishes the authenticity of a brand to help achieve:
Several DNS hosting providers enable publishing your BIMI records. There are three simple steps to implementing BIMI:
BIMI is an extension of DMARC, so a DMARC-configured domain is necessary to use it. A DMARC record stands for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance, a standard that protects email correspondences from spamming, spoofing, and phishing by adding another layer of authenticity. Before publishing your DMARC certificate with your DNS provider, you have to ensure that your SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail) records are in place in order to be compliant.
A TXT record has to be created to enable the BIMI policy. This contains the URL of the file location that stores the company logo. When a BIMI-supporting mail provider receives an email, it queries its domain to check for a BIMI file. After the email passes the DMARC authentication, its BIMI file guides the email server to fetch the BIMI logo to display.
In the years to come, the BIMI standard is expected to be widely accepted across several email providers. With mass adoption, prices to get a verified logo will also drop and accelerate uptake not only for big brands but also medium enterprises, emerging brands, and entrepreneurs.
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