I stumbled across this question on LinkedIn the other day. It’s a recurring personal brand question and some of my clients have very different takes on whether a logo or a mugshot is best for their own personal brand. I thought I should share the question and my answer here (especially since the question has been closed for three months already!).
“Many of you know that I am starting an organization about personal development. So far most of my usernames have been my organization name as oppose to my actual name. I also use my logo in most places as opposed to my own face. Which one is better? Obviously, big companies use a logo and a brand name, but I have also read that people want a face to communicate with not a logo.
My organization is web based. If I was just doing this in the city that I live I might just go ahead and use my face, but it is intended to be a global service, where I will be more behind the scenes connecting people to each other that are in need of personal development services.”
To me this is fairly clear and I have made two distinctions:
If you are trading in your own name – use your face
This is the essence of personal branding, by using your own name to sell a product or service you have to put yourself out there. This means letting potential customers read your bio to understand your skills and experiences, to see where you are based, get your contact details and most importantly let them see what you look like. A photo of yourself that is used across all communications is imperative to creating that trust you need from your client base.
You can of course use a logo of your name as well. You could argue that the top banner on this blog is a personal logo, albeit not a very advanced one. If you are interested in a personal logo, check out this post containing more personal logo design ideas by Jacob Share.
If you have a business name – use a logotype
When you decide to start a business with a brand name, you can go in two directions. You either create a business name that tells people exactly what is going on (e.g. Personal Branding UK) or you opt for something more cryptic (e.g. Gingerbread Lady). As the first type is more descriptive, you won’t actually have to put too much energy into creating a fantastic logo – it’s obvious what the company does. In the second case, you’ll have to put more work in and the logo should be there to create brand awareness.
So you either need a fancy or a basic logo for your brand. The fancy logo will probably be done by a professional like a graphic designer and the basic one can be done by you. Check out free sites like LogoMaker or CooltText for ideas and even basic logo generation. In case you want to check out some professional stuff, have a look at Logo Lounge.
Whatever you do, never hide your face on your website and in any corporate communications. People buy into people, they want to buy from someone they like and trust. When starting up a new company with a brand that is not personal, make sure that your target audience can easily connect with your personal brand as well. One simple way of doing this is to link your personal blog or social media profiles to your company website, so that visitors can easily click their way through to you and check out your credentials and social proof.
This is really not that difficult; use your own photo for your own-name business and use a logo for your branded business. Whichever business you are running, remember that the photo doesn’t necessarily have to eliminate the logo and vice versa. You can still have a logo alongside your photo, and you really should make your photo available on a corporate website. And do use a professional headshot and not just any random picture from Facebook, it's worth spending a little to get a good photo taken by a photographer.
What is your take on this, do you use a photo and/or logo for your branding?