Logos in the Inbox: Gmail

Welcome to the PeakInbox blog! While we wait for annotations to be released to the Gmail web, we wanted to start sharing some of the tips and tricks we have learned while building the only tool for Annotation analytics and real-time A/B/n testing. Want to get in on Early Access? Read our blog post for more details and sign up today – it’s totally free!

10% increase in open rates, based on one small change

When a brand logo is displayed in the inbox, recipients are “10% more likely to actually open the email, because they see which brand it is from, and they are more likely to trust it,” according to Marcel Becker, Director of Product Management at Verizon Media Group (Yahoo! Mail and AOL).

This is the first hard data I’ve come across directly linking brand logos to email performance. Testing is ineffective, as logos are always either on or off, not conducive to a 50/50 split test. But based on Becker’s statement, I’m inclined to recommend adding logos to all emails. It’s not easy (Yahoo! Mail, Outlook, and Gmail all require different setups), but it’s not impossible.

Here, I’ll dive into Gmail. You can find the blog post on Microsoft here.

Without senders taking the time to set their avatars, their logos are just a generic circle with the first letter of the from name on a random background color in the Gmail mobile apps. On Gmail web it’s just a generic person logo.  Apart from Google+ icons (RIP 2019), there has been no clear way to place logos across Gmail interfaces.

Luckily, we now have the chance to place your logo in various places within Gmail to improve the brand experience!

Like with many things about email, getting this right takes a multifaceted approach. To place your logo across all instances of the Gmail mobile and web interfaces requires implementing logos in two separate ways, setting up a Google Profile, and using annotations.

Let’s use brand@company.com for our examples, you will need real-time access to the inbox that receives email for brand@company.com.

  1. Create a logo file that is 250 x 250 with a solid background (GIF or PNG). The logo will display rounded, so the corners will be cut off. (See screenshot)
  2. Setup a Google without Gmail Account:
    1. Load an incognito window and go to https://accounts.google.com/SignUpWithoutGmail. (See screenshot here)
    2. Create an account for brand@company.com.
    3. You will instantly be sent an email to brand@company.com with a six-digit verification code which you will have to enter. (See screenshot)
    4. Once you are in the account, go to https://myaccount.google.com/personal-info and click on the current logo to update the profile picture. (See screenshot)
  3. In order for your logo to appear in the Primary Tab Teaser, you must use annotations. With annotations you can add a description, image, deadlines and much more. Or, you can simply add a logo by using either the script or microdata version of the annotation code block. Note that your annotation-based logo will also override the profile logo in the Top Bundle section. (Find out more from the offical Gmail annotations site. Much more to come on this from PeakInbox in the coming months.)
  4. Confirm by sending an email from your ESP from brand@company.com to a Gmail (or Google Workspace) account, you will see your logo right away in Gmail web and mobile apps (officially, there is a 24-hour delay in the mobile app, but in our testing, it’s always instantaneous). Your logo will time travel…when you update the Google profile image, it will time travel and appear on all past emails in the Gmail app and web interfaces.

Using Google Workspace?

If the email brand@company.com is set up as its own account in your Google Workspace account, then this is super simple. Just login to that account and go to https://myaccount.google.com/personal-info.

If when you try to update the logo you see this message:

This means your Google Workspace admin has locked this functionality. If a Google Workspace admin sets the profile image for brand@company.com in the Google Admin portal – it will not show up as the logo Gmail! It will show up for on your internal Google Workspace accounts, which is very confusing. You have to have your Google Admin unlock this feature and then set the logo for brand@company.com at https://myaccount.google.com/personal-info.

Using an alternative domain with Google Workspace?

If your sending domain is a different domain — either a different root domain (ex. brand@mycompanybrand.com,) — or a different sub-domain (ex. brand@email.company.com, and you login with brand@company.com), this is totally doable.

Have your Google Workspace admin go to(https://admin.google.com/ac/domains/manage) and all the other root or sub-domain. Your Google Workspace admin will then need to click Activate Gmail next to the alternative domain:

As this email is already flowing to your ESP, select Skip MX record setup and then I USE ANOTHER MAIL SERVER. Then go to https://myaccount.google.com/personal-info and update the photo for brand@company.com, Gmail figures out the rest.

Using groups with Google Workspace?

Some senders might use a third-party ticketing system so need emails to brand@company.com  forwarded outside of their Google Workspace account. This is done either by setting up a Group or by your Google Workspace admin in user-level routing.

This is the bad news section of this post… sorry. If your sending email address is used on a Group or as user-level routing, you cannot set the logo. Talk to your Google Workspace admin and see if you can get that setup as an Account with forwarding rules instead.

More than one email address?

Once you have your Google account setup (without Google Workspace), just head over to your Account (https://myaccount.google.com) and add alternative addresses (https://myaccount.google.com/alternateemail). The same logo will show for all emails listed as alternatives. You will need to verify ownership of each address by plugging in a new six-digit verification code.

If you are on Google Workspace, your Google Workspace administrator will have to add alternative addresses in the administrator console.

Animated logos? 😊

You can make your profile image an animated GIF and it will animate in the Gmail mobile app!

Drawbacks? ☹

By setting up a Google Profile, there is one drawback I’ve discovered. If you are already a Google Workspace user, this is already happening.

In the Gmail web interface, when your subscriber hovers over your logo, they will get the option to start a Google Chat or Hangout with you. If the user clicks the Chat icon an error will appear. If they start a Hangout, it will open but do nothing.

If the user clicks the Chat icon, they will get the following error message:

Given the advantages, this is a small price to pay. (Have you figured out how to get Chat and Hangout disabled? Leave a comment below and we’ll update this post.)

Wait, isn’t Gmail using BIMI?

On July 21, 2020 Gmail announced the pilot for Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) with only a “limited number of senders”. So as of right now there is no way to use BIMI to get your logo into Gmail. More importantly, there is no need as using a Google Profile + Annotations provides 100% logo coverage.

When this changes, I’ll update this post.

Lastly, in helping other set this up the logos do not always display without a clear reason why. Have you run into an issue not listed above, or is it just not working right? You can find me at brians@peakinbox.com, or on @EmailGeeks Slack channel DM me @Brian Sisolak.

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