These two powerful acronyms can help you take your email marketing and communications to the next level. Not only do they increase your cyber security, but they also let you display your brand in a powerful way.

BIMI stands for “Brand Indicators for Message Identification”. In essence, it allows your logo to be used in email clients that support BIMI. These include Google’s Gmail and many other commonly used email clients. Your logo will be shown next to your message in the inbox. In order to have your logo displayed in the email inbox, most email clients, most notably Google (Gmail), require that you have a VMC. VMC stands for “Verified Mark Certificate”. VMC is a certificate that you are the proper owner of the logo you want to have displayed in the recipient’s inbox. The user will see the logo even before opening the message.

Your logo in the email – big deal?

Using your brand logo in the inbox of the receiver has huge advantages. Firstly, your messages are verified as authentic so the receiver will know that if the email in the inbox has your logo, it comes from you. Spoofers and phishers can use many techniques to impersonate you, but they will not be able to use your logo in the inbox. This is because BIMI requires the implementation of various security mechanisms (such as DMARC) that guarantee the authenticity of the email. This increases trust in your emails.

As spamming and spoofing increase, people’s attitudes toward their inbox will inevitably change. Emails from easily identifiable trusted sources will be even more valuable. Maybe someday other emails will not even get to be opened, or are automatically flagged as spam. According to initial pilot studies the opening rate of emails that use VMCs is higher than that of other emails.

Many online platforms have user certification systems. For example, Twitter, Instagram and Airbnb all have their “Verified” badges. Email is one of the most frequently used media in the world, so it is surprising that no proper verification mechanism has been available. BIMIs and VMCs tackle this issue, but so far their adoption is very low. As spamming, spoofing and phishing increase, it is inevitable that mechanisms that can guarantee the authenticity of the email sender will gain popularity.

Secondly, having your logo in the recipient’s inbox view is a powerful marketing asset. You will get thousands of extra brand impressions in a prime location where brands are not generally visible. Over time, these all help you to build awareness and the reputation of your brand. According to studies, 99% of email users open their email every day. Having your logo displayed there has immense value. 

The effect is probably even more profound at the moment when logos are generally not visible in the inbox view. At the moment they really stand out from the crowd. In time, as BIMIs and VMCs become more prevalent, their effect will be different. Logos that are displayed in the inbox will inevitably be the default, so having one does not enable you to stand out. However, not having one is a sure way to make sure your email will be missed out. Until that time, you can enjoy extra brand exposure by using BIMI.

VMCs are not for everyone

In order to get a VMC, you will need a registered trademark. Further, not any trademark will do. Only those granted by a few selected trademark offices are currently accepted. Among these are the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

VMC essentially guarantees that you have rights to the logo you want to use. In other words, it verifies that you are the trademark owner of the logo you want to use. Currently, there are only two organisations that have the power to issue a VMC. These are DigiCert and Entrust.

Why is the adoption rate of BIMI and VMC so low?

Currently, BIMI and VMC are used only by a handful of companies. The two main reasons are the technical difficulties and the costs involved. Smaller companies do not often have the required technical expertise to implement BIMI. For larger (and older) companies the main issue is probably that Microsoft (Outlook) does not support BIMI at this stage.

From the cost point of view, the companies must have a registered trademark matching the logo they want to display in the inbox view. This should, however, be considered an “extra” cost, because a company should have its logo registered as a trademark regardless of its intention to implement BIMI. Secondly, getting a VMC is a genuine extra cost. Currently, the cost is in the region of 1000-1500 EUR depending on which entity grants the certificate. It is likely that when the VMCs become more popular, the cost of certification will also drop.

Conclusion

Implementing BIMI and getting a VMC is a great and novel way for a company to get valuable brand exposure in an environment where brands are currently not commonly displayed. As an added bonus, implementing BIMI is good for cybersecurity regardless of the intention to have the logo displayed in the inbox.