People often underestimate email avatars, yet it’s probably the first thing subscribers and customers see when receiving an email. So, naturally, you’d want to leave an excellent first impression, right?
Another part of visual brand recognition is BIMI, an abbreviation of Brand Indicator for Message Identification, a way to make emails more secure by displaying brand logos.
So first, let’s go over the steps of getting your avatar to show in Gmail, and then focus on BIMI and how to set it up in your email.
TLDR: Email avatars and logos are essential for immediate brand recognition. Here you can learn how to easily add or change your avatar on Gmail and implement BIMI - the new email option for verifying and displaying trademarked brand logos. BIMI will help you increase your brand awareness and improve the security of your emails.
How to Add an Avatar to Gmail
The steps below explain how you can easily set up a Gmail avatar.
The first thing to do is, of course, to sign in to your Gmail account.
Next, go to the window’s top right corner, where you’ll see the profile picture. If you still haven’t put one, you’ll see the first letter of your email user name. Click on it!
A rectangle window will open in which you’ll see the profile picture again, and on the lower right corner of it, you’ll see a symbol of a camera. Click on it!
Another small rectangle window will open in which you’ll see two options: Change or Remove. Click the Change option.
When you click on Change, you’ll be able to choose between three tabs: Illustrations (provided by Google), Google Photos (images from your inbox), and From a computer, which allows you to drag and drop an image from your own computer or upload one. In the same tab, you can also find the option Take a picture and Google will gladly take a picture of you right at that instant, through your own computer camera.
In the upper right corner of the Change profile picture window, you can find three vertical dots. When you press them, you get the options for Past profile pictures, Help, and Send feedback. If you want to bring an older avatar back from obscurity, then this is the place where you can do this in Gmail.
And that’s it, folks!
Another way you can go about it - which is the longer route, I have to say - is like this:
Sign in to your Gmail account.
Click on your profile picture at the top right corner.
In the small rectangle window that opens you’ll see the option Manage Your Google Account.
A new window will open with several options on the left side. One of these options will be Personal info. Click on that.
You’ll see a Basic info section in which the first option is the Photo option. Click on that.
This will open a small rectangle window in which you’ll get the Change and Remove options that I mentioned above.
Click Change and then either use a Google illustration, a picture from your email or upload one from your computer. Google can also take a picture of you with your camera and crop it up if you’d like to.
What is BIMI and How Can You Set It Up?
Okay, glad we got the avatar out of the way. Now it’s time for BIMI!
As I mentioned earlier, it stands for Brand Indicator for Message Identification, and it’s a new and very exciting option that allows clients to display their authenticated and certified brand logos in the emails they send to their users.
Why Use BIMI?
This is important for companies because it allows customers and users to easily identify and recognize the brand and logo of the companies whose services they use.
With BIMI, companies also have complete control over the type of logo displayed as their email avatar, which is an excellent prevention against email fraud. Moreover, this will help companies increase visibility, brand recognition, and brand awareness.
Without BIMI, there will just be a generic logo with your company’s initials, so implementing BIMI is undoubtedly the better option.
What You Need to Have Before Implementing BIMI
To implement and participate in BIMI, you must first get full authentication as an email sender.
Only authenticated messages can display brand logos, which means you’ll have to get DKIM, SPF, and DMARC before you do anything else. These are all email authentication methods designed to prevent phishing attacks (hackers trying to obtain sensitive personal data), to prevent spammers from spoofing (sending messages to clients in your name), and to add a digital signature to your emails so the receiving servers know you’re a source they can trust.
Once you have these critical authentications, you can continue setting up BIMI and adding it to your email domain address.
How To Set Up BIMI for Your Email Domain
To implement BIMI, follow the steps below.
Get Your Brand Logo Trademarked
The first step is registering your brand logo trademark. This means that your brand logo has to be registered as your intellectual property so that issuers of VMC can recognize it easily. This is usually done through a patent and trademark office or a website, but you’ll have to check the specific regulations, depending on where you are from.
You can quickly check whether a logo has already been trademarked through the Global Brand Database - WIPO.
Buy a Verified Mark Certificate (VMC)
Some email companies, like Google, require a verified mark certificate or VMC. So if you want your BIMI to show on Google, you’ll have to get a VMC, which is used to verify that your organization legally owns your brand logo.
You can buy a VMC from a certificate authority like DigiCert or Entrust. Now that you have a registered brand logo, you need to give a scalable vector graphics file (an SVG file) of it and then get a PEM file that acts as a reference for the SVG file provided by the VMC service.
You can get the SVG specifications here.
VMC Needs to Be Uploaded to Your Email Server
Once you’ve been issued the PEM file, it’ll have to be uploaded to the email server. That way, anyone can access it.
Keep in mind that the webserver has to have the HTTPS security protocol. Also, the URL that leads to the PEM file needs to begin with https:// - so it can work properly.
Once you do this, you should see a PEM file URL like this:
Next Up! Your Brand Logo Needs to Be Uploaded
Next, it’s time to upload your brand logo. Much like the process involving the PEM file, this also needs to be done in an SVG format, and uploaded to your email server.
Your SVG logo URL should look like this:
Create a BIMI Record
The next step is creating a BIMI record. This is a DNS TXT record; a string consisting of various tags set apart by semicolons.
The two essential tags a BIMI record can’t do without are: v and l.
The v tag is used to specify the BIMI version. The current standard is BIMI1.
The l tag is used to specify the logo’s URL.
Another tag, the a tag, is required by email providers like Gmail. This one has the VMC PEM file URL.
Below is a BIMI record example specifying the uploaded SVG logo and PEM file:
v=BIMI1; l=https://thenameofyourserver.com/logo.svg; a=https://yourserver.com/vmc.pem
Keep in mind that the SVG content you’re referencing in the BIMI record should be the same as the SVG file content you’re referencing in the PEM file. If you don’t do this, then BIMI won’t work.
Publish Your BIMI Record in the DNS System
The BIMI record is a type of DNS TXT record that’s written and published in the DNS as:
And the full BIMI record within the DNS should look like this:
Type of Record: TXT
Name: default._bimi Value: v=BIMI1; l=https://yourserver.com/logo.svg; a=https://yourserver.com/vmc.pem
Test Your BIMI Record
Once you’re done with the setup and the BIMI is published, check your BIMI record.
You can check whether the BIMI record works through the BIMI Inspector online tool.
Keep in mind that it might take up to two days until your BIMI record starts displaying the logo of your brand in the emails you send.
And that’s that, folks! Now you know how to add or change an avatar in Gmail, what BIMI is, why it’s important, and how to set it up.