Time, I think, to get myself a logo. No, more than a logo. A complete, personal, corporate identity. Let’s face it: the fuzzy photo at the top of this column, while it serves the purpose – yes, I do look a bit like a man permanently wearing a stocking mask – scarcely imprints a precisely calculated notion of Pearmanness on the readership, let alone the general public. And I don’t help myself. “Is it pronounced Peerman or Pairman?” people ask. I shrug. Doesn’t matter, I say.
This over-casual attitude towards my personal brand must cease. I must learn from the big organisations, those which are going through one of their regular redesign orgies. If the Department of Culture, Media and Sport can get itself a new, zingy identity – and shortly another one for its “Modern Britain” Lottery Fund – then why can’t I? If Virgin can pick up the Union Jack dropped by British Airways, and stitch it into its own new livery, then perhaps I should steal someone’s clothes, too. And if Marks & Spencer can, after all these years, be forced by plunging sales into considering abandoning its St Michael brand, then surely everything is ripe for reappraisal.
Of course, I must avoid the Prince syndrome. The artist who reduced his name to a squiggle, and then had himself a guitar made in the same shape has shown us all the dangers of personal logofication. Had he started out his career as a squiggle, that would possibly have been fine, since DJs have trouble with names of more than one syllable anyway, and some kind of grunt would have evolved to serve the purpose. No, it was the ditching of the familiar name that was dumb. At least Woolworths didn’t change the name of its stores to Kingfisher, when that name was devised for its holding company. The fact that I cannot remember what Cordiant does – is it a telecommunications company, an ad agency or a chain of shoe shops? – confirms the feeling that name changes, as on ships, are unlucky. “Hugh Pearman” it will have to be, then – but as with Kingfisher or the DCMS, that name could serve as an umbrella organisation.
In fact, I’ve done this before. Long ago, when I found myself writing most of a magazine week by week, I had to invent pen names to disguise the fact that the mag was so embarrassingly short-staffed. I gave myself what I now recognise as two sub-brands: Guy Appleton, conceived as a bit of a mincing, lilac-hosed aesthete, and Geoff Hughes, a no-nonsense, blokish type, who liked his pint and called a spade a blooming shovel. The odd thing was that the ruse worked. If you write under a different name, and you have a clear idea of the persona attached to that name, you don’t even have to think about altering your style – it just happens. Once letters for Geoff and Guy began to arrive, I thought of getting them into a head-to-head encounter, reported by “Hugh Pearman”, at which sparks would naturally fly. Luckily, another job called just in time, and the pair went into the filing cabinet, never to return in print. Until now.
I can imagine the briefing session, as I call in CDT Design or Johnson Banks or Wolff Olins to re-shape my identity. Research may well reveal that it is time to cut down on the amiability quotient. The brand is seen as being too damned nice, too even-handed. This is not appropriate in today’s Julie Burchillised critical world.
Whatever the thing you’re commenting on, it should either be fantastically good or excruciatingly awful, never anything in between. The editors quickly lose interest if you start to sketch in the middle ground.
Moreover, while all the media loves an “expert”, this splits into those who want late night, Radio Three-style intellectual chat, and those who mistrust anything pseudo, and want a man-of-the-people approach instead. I therefore expect my advisors to recommend splitting the brand into sector specialisms.
Oh yes, “Hugh Pearman” will continue as the main marque. We cannot risk upsetting the loyal customer base. But next to me as I write, the drawers of the filing cabinet are slowly opening in a blaze of light amid clouds of dry ice. I see the thin white manicured fingers of Guy emerging from one, the nicotine-stained, broken nails of Geoff from the other. Welcome back, old friends. I have work for you to do. Meet my new image consultants.