Start-Up Brings Logos to E-Mail “From” Space

Start-up Iconix has introduced a service that places companies’ logos in the “from” space in some email clients. The offering is aimed at helping senders build their brands and distinguish themselves from phishers, but it requires recipients to install a plug-in.

The offering, called Truemark, builds upon the authentication standards — Sender ID and DomainKeys — which have been widely adopted by email senders and ISPs. When email marketers sign up with Iconix, its system looks at incoming email, authenticates that the message is actually coming from the purported “from” domain, and then displays the logo associated with that domain. Senders pay a fraction of a cent each time the logo is shown, and more each time a logo-enhanced email is opened.

“They’re only paying when a value-added event happens,” said Jeff Wilbur, vice president of marketing at Iconix.

Iconix says it checks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to ensure a customer has the right to use a particular logo. When a user mouses over the logo, a certificate is displayed that verifies the sender of the email.

For the service to work, email recipients must download and install a plug-in, which currently only works on Yahoo Mail on Internet Explorer. When the plug-in is installed, Truemark subscribers’ logos show in the “from” field of the email interface. Iconix says it will be compatible with MSN’s Hotmail by the end of the month. The company is working on versions for other email programs and browsers.

Iconix hopes to drive downloads and installations by making the end-user plug-in, called email ID, free and attractive to users. Besides displaying company Truemark logos, the software also displays “buddy-icons” created and maintained by individual users. The company hopes such functionality will help it spread virally and among affinity groups.

So far, corporate travel agency Global Star has experimented with the Truemark solution, and a regional bank in the San Francisco Bay Area is also interested.

JupiterResearch email analyst David Daniels is skeptical about Iconix’ chances for success.

“Ultimately I tend to think that these vendor direct plug-ins will struggle based on the popularity of the ISP/Portal plug-ins,” he said, adding that most (72 percent) consumers use spam protection provided by their ISPs or Web mail providers.

Iconix says it is talking to Web mail providers and makers of email client software, hoping to get the email ID software built into their systems.

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