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Paola Bergamini
20 May 2021
Reading time: 6 min.

What’s the secret to greater email Open Rates? It’s not (only) the subject.

Among the factors that influence an email campaign’s open rate, the subject line has played a leading role over the years. Today, however, a new element has picked up speed: brand recognition.

For sure, the Open Rate is one of the main metrics of the email channel: without opening there’s no possibility of clicking and, without clicking, there’s no conversion. On average, a user receives about 55 emails a week. Nowadays, capturing attention in a constantly crowded inbox remains a top goal for every company: winning the competition in the recipients’ inbox is still the most felt challenge by 42% of marketers.

competition in inbox

Source: Validity

How can I achieve this important goal? Over the years, the first, fairly sure answer to this question has always been, “optimizing the email subject line” through a series of best practices to increase curiosity and effectiveness.

But recently, the same users have shown the ultimate winner of the inbox competition in influencing message openings: brand recognition.

The brand’s ability to be immediately recognizable to its recipients right from the inbox has become the first factor to push recipients to open. This leverages the safety, reputation, and trust that the company builds in relationship to the user.

So let’s check out the main actions to increase your brand recognition, plus the further advantages of this best practice.

Opening a message requires recognizing the brand

The 2021 Consumer Email Tracker from the UK Data Marketing Association revealed how much users are actually driven to open their emails based on the ability to recognize the brand over other reasons.

According to 55% of the sample interviewed, recognizing the brand among a myriad of companies that populate the inbox is the main factor in encouraging the opening of a message.

This does not mean that the email subject has lost its importance. On the contrary, there’s always a significant 48% who identify it as the key element.

Both these factors greatly overcome the relevance of other aspects like the timing of sending (20%), available time to open and read an email (26%), or previewing the message (25%).

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Brand identity and recognizability are important

Making your brand recognizable and strengthening your brand identity can yield you more than just open rates. Undoubtedly, email is one of the main channels  – through Email Branding strategies – to achieve both objectives.

Working on the consistency, identity, and recognizability of your brand brings numerous benefits in terms of:

  • sender (and company) reputation
  • decreased spam reports and deliverability optimization
  • company transparency
  • trust in brand
  • greater loyalty and recognized value toward the brand

Users look for trust and security from companies, especially in this new normal of uncertainties and instability. They’ve shown to favor companies they know and trust when it comes to making a purchase: according to Deloitte, 53% of consumers bought from trusted brands during the pandemic.

Brand familiarity, company reputation, and trust have become new factors in guiding users’ purchasing behavior and communication.

4 ways to make your brand more recognizable in inboxes

1. Customize the sender domain and create specific subdomains

Here’s the first step in making the sender recognizable and increasing the chances of opening emails: communicate through a valid and recognizable name by customizing the sender’s domain. 

As in SMS Marketing‘s sender personalization through Alias, the email channel can send from a recognizable domain. This encourages openness and creates a relationship of greater trust with recipients. 

So our first advice is to customize the sender’s name and address and create subdomains related to the company domain name for every communication purpose and need (e.g. customer service, info, no reply). The first part of the personalized subdomain must recall the type of communication for which it was created (e.g. customerservice@companyx). This way, the user can immediately recognize the sender and identify the message’s subject line.

Using a subdomain instead of the company domain name is also a best practice. It protects against the possibility that the latter could end up on a blacklist and compromise the associated company email addresses. 

2. Use your brand domain in authentication methods

Authentication systems are security measures for e-mail providers to decide whether or not to deliver an email. They’re used to check the sender’s identity and prevent fraudulent or spam attempts to the detriment of the recipient.

Using an authentication method (such as SPF, DKIM, or DMARC) then lets you make your email campaigns more easily identifiable by the recipients. This protects your sender domain, triggering a virtuous circle for which:

  • the user recognizes the sender
  • the chances of opening emails increase
  • the risks of spam reports are reduced
  • the reputation of the sender is optimized
  • the deliverability increases

The MailUp platform is already set up to use the SPF and DKIM authentication protocols for “system” domains. These are on default and shared with all customers who don’t have customized configurations. However, if you want to increase your brand awareness, then our advice is to set up authentication using your custom domain. To find out how to do it, follow our guide or ask our team of experts for advice.

Rely on the MailUp experience and maximize your performance with Deliverability Suite. Tailor-made consultancy and the wide range of advanced configurations offered by the service let you optimize your reputation and brand awareness, guaranteeing maximum protection for your mailings. Find out more on the MailUp website.

Despite the benefits of an authentication method on these fronts, the best practice of adopting this “defense weapon” is still poorly integrated info corporate email marketing strategiesaccording to Validity, only 26% of companies use DMARC to increase mailing security. A significant 46% declares that they don’t know which authentication policy is adopted internally.

These data are not very encouraging if you consider that the DMARC method, as we at MailUp often repeat, is one of the most effective authentication systems for improving one’s own recognition and reputation as a sender. Based on merging the two pre-existing SPF and DKIM technologies, DMARC represents an optimal solution for both the company and the user, as it:

  • helps the company ensure brand integrity by protecting it from fraud and abuse
  • helps the recipient move filtering decisions from IP to domain, which DMARC makes ever more important in communications.

3. Add another piece of recognition with BIMI

To add a further step to your sender recognizability and make your brand even more visible in the inboxes, use BIMI, the last frontier of email authentication methods.

BIMI is an acronym that stands for Brand Indicators for Message Identification and, like all other authentication systems, reassures ISPs about the identity of the sender of a message. However, there’s also another element to strengthen the sender’s identity: the logo.

BIMI allows your company logo to be displayed in supported mailboxes. This puts the brand in the foreground, offering the recipient a much more timely and effective visual recognition tool. Despite this enormous potential, even this system is little used and known to companies. In recording data similar to that of DMARC: only 21% of marketers claim to use this authentication tool.

4. Build a complete footer

The custom sender domain and authentication methods are elements that make the sender recognizable from the inbox. However, there are other factors that play an important role in terms of brand awareness and brand identity once the email is opened.

First of all, there’s the footer, which is the base of the email and the place par excellence to recognize the brand. All data that are part of the trust sphere are gathered here: transparency, reliability, security, and reputation.

To boost your brand identity and create an effective footer, here are data you absolutely can’t skip out on:

  • contact information (link to the company website, correspondence address, and contact email address)
  • permission reminder
  • company logo
  • distinctive brand payoffs and claims

5.Use a consistent and identifying brand style

If the footer is the place of brand recognition, then the design, writing style, and tone of voice can also help create an email template that’s immediately recognizable and identifies your brand. 

Being consistent in choosing the elements that make up the body of an email and maintaining specific brand guidelines is another way to strengthen the identity of your company and ensure that the user can immediately set your communications apart from the others.

So define a color palette that reflects your brand or recalls your logo. Add the latter in the above-the-fold section and position it strategically to make it immediately visible. Set rules for the use of fonts and structures. Use a writing style and tone of voice consistent with your image. Last, choose a slogan that embodies the company’s mission and identifies your brand.


We’ve seen that an email subject line isn’t the only element in 2021 to impact the open rates of a message.

In a new normal where trust in brands is becoming one of the key elements influencing user behavior, being immediately recognizable and having a precise, clear, and consistent identity means winning the inbox competition. That way, you can grasp recipients’ time and attention.

Follow the advice we gave you in this article. Request a no-obligation consultation from our team of experts to improve your open rates!

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Paola Bergamini

I was born in 1993 in Como and I escaped from this little town to study in Milan, where I graduated in 2017 in philosophy. I've always been interested in marketing and communication and I love writing and reading. As Content Editor at MailUp, I try to keep up to date with Email and Digital Marketing news, in order to share trends, theories and tools about this constantly evolving sector.

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