What is a BIMI record?

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.

What is a BIMI record?

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.

Benefits of BIMI

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:

  • Brand amplification through trust. BIMI adds one more line of defense against brand spoofing, phishing, and impersonation since it's impossible for just anyone to register a company as, say, Appple or Ub3r and copy their official logo. Lookalike logos fail at the domain front, and when detected, centralized email systems can flush them out quickly. BIMI neither tracks nor snoops into user activity since it's only an image of a verified logo in a specific format and doesn't run any additional code.
  • Brand control over standardization. BIMI also offers an opportunity for brands to implement seasonal brand-level changes, such as a winter logo, or to mark special occasions, such as anniversaries, IPOs, etc. These changes require renewed BIMIs.
  • Higher open rates and a subsequent higher response rate. As BIMI builds on DMARC, it adds another 10% increase in open rates to the already 10% increase in open rates achieved through DMARC alone.
  • Fewer email bounces and spam quarantines.
  • An overall richer inbox experience.
  • Vendor neutrality. Even Microsoft and many other email service providers are expected to adopt BIMI as a global standard.

How to register your organization's BIMI record?

Several DNS hosting providers enable publishing your BIMI records. There are three simple steps to implementing BIMI:

  • Enforce DMARC in your email policy
  • Validate a BIMI logo; there are Verified Mark Certifying (VMC) companies that establish identity, business, business domain, and logo ownership
  • Publish a BIMI record in your DNS records by visiting your DNS hosting provider's portal.

BIMI logos should:

  • Be in SVG format with a solid background color.
  • Not exceed a file size of 32KB.
  • Be a square aspect ratio.
  • Be centered as it may be displayed as a circle or a square with or without a rounded corner.

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.

For this to happen:

  • DMARC should be set to p=reject or p=quarantine.
  • A BIMI record should be stored in the DNS server for that domain.
  • The URL for the image should be live and point to the image in SVG format only.

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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