A: Whether you like it or not, you are a brand. I don't mean that you've consciously constructed yourself; I mean that people see people, and that includes you, very much as they see brands. In fact, it would be far more accurate to say that people see brands very much as they see people since people predate brands. There's no fundamental difference between a brand's image and a person's reputation: both are formed from a thousand different contacts, encounters, experiences, bits of hearsay, and all filtered through the prejudices and preconceptions of the individual observer. You remain exactly the same; but your mother's image of you is quite different from your client's - or at least I hope so.
Since every small stimulus about you will elicit some sort of response in the mind of every observer, almost certainly below the level of consciousness, it obviously follows that appearance matters: everything does. But don't take that to mean that you should deliberately set out to change your appearance in the hope of notching up some planned improvement in your personal brand rating. Remember that the brand attribute that people find most reassuring is authenticity. By the sound of it, you're not, naturally, a cool dude. No-one will be fooled for a second if you start to dress like one. You will go from being that rather dull person with a middle-aged dress sense to that rather dull person pitiably failing to look like a cool dude.
What I suggest you do is to forget about appearance and concentrate on performance. Be quite spectacularly good at what you do. All the time. On everything. Over and over again. And surprisingly quickly, a quite extraordinary transformation in your own brand reputation will take hold. Your ordinary features and middle-aged dress sense, far from holding you back, will become evidence of your astonishing authenticity. Here is a man so authentically able that he has no need of gyms or trainers or combat trousers. Soon you will notice all those young people on work experience turning up at the office in second-hand Montague Burton suits exhumed from charity shops. They, too, have come to believe that their appearance is holding them back; but, unlike you, have foolishly chosen to correct not the steak but the sizzle.
I've no idea what you should do about your moobs. They're not really my subject but I very much doubt if you can make them cool. Staying with those baggy shirts is probably the best answer.
Q: Dear Jeremy, I am a chief executive of a UK agency. The other day, the global marketing director of our network (who is new to the job) sent me a message referring to me as "darling". I thought that was a bit much. Surely I am her senior? Or do you think the global accolade in her title has gone to her head and therefore she thinks she is my equal - or, worse, superior to me? Surely she is delusional?
A: Just loosen up, will you? You're fortunate enough to work in one of the few trades where old school ties, traditional formalities and an acute sense of hierarchy aren't prerequisites for advancement. Yet here you are, apparently living in some mid-60s sitcom, expostulating that someone junior to you is calling you darling. Any person as self-important as you should be both astonished and euphoric that anyone should call you darling. The real giveaway is that, had this global marketing director been senior to you, her calling you darling would apparently have been entirely acceptable. What a creep.
Reggie Perrin may be alive and well; but with you in charge, I can't believe your agency will be for very much longer.
Q: Dear Jeremy, My (ad agency) boss has just told me I should be using my Twitter feed to present a positive image of the company. That would ruin my image as a cool provocateur. Should I say no?
A: Yes. But not for that reason. Twitter users understand Twitter a great deal more than your boss evidently does. It would be immediately apparent to everyone that you'd been instructed by your boss to use your Twitter feed to present a positive image of the company, thus incurring derision not only for yourself but also for your boss and the company. In saving yourself, you will also save him; even if he doesn't deserve it.
"Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone (020) 8267 4919
Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via email@example.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.