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I think you are referring to the G Suite feature? Add your logo - G Suite Administrator Help
It doesn't need to be a gmail address, but you do need to use G Suite.
Hi guys. Not quite (I think)...let me clarify.
If a user opens up Gmail on their iPhone, they will see their inbox with a bunch of emails in it. Some brands have managed to get their logo to display on the left hand side of their email preview, so in addition to the subject line and preheader, you get brand identity through that logo. If you don't have a logo, Gmail displays the first letters of the words in your name inside a circle.
Part of the answer seems to be here: google - How to get company logo as contact icon in Gmail and Inbox? - Webmasters Stack Exchange
Does that help?