HAVE you ever considered how much your body image - your personal packaging -- contributes to your business and personal success?

The multi-million dollar cosmetics industry is acutely aware of the value of packaging. You will know this if you have ever bought anything from those glamorous ladies whose counters are always just inside the front door of department stores.

Never mind if surveys tell you that mass market products from the supermarket or the pharmacy are "just as good" as the fancy brands, and you are getting value for money.

Do you drop your favourite brand? Of course, you don't. Human beings are driven by emotions, not logic - and never more so than when spending their money.

Grab attention

People buy with their eyes as they love packaging. The marketing and merchandising experts have it down to a fine art and know the colours and shapes that people are most likely to buy. They then design their packaging accordingly and make sure it grabs our attention.

The product in the packaging should do what it says it will do, but if it simply looks like it can do the business, then you are more likely to believe it can.

It is just the same with people. Whether you like it or not, people are likely to make judgments about you by your body image - the way you are packaged.

They'll then decide whether they like you,whether they'll give you a job or even just believe what you say.

This seems to be so obvious. Yet I have seen professional speakers with scuffed shoes, business leaders with outdated suits and politicians wearing clothes that don't fit them or suit their shape.

A few months ago, I attended a function where an accountant was invited to speak about his business. He told the assembled audience how efficient his business was and about their attention to detail.

However, his tie was undone and his shirt looked like he was breaking it in for a smaller friend. His suit, though probably expensive, wasn't the right colour for him and merely drew attention to the fact that its wearer liked his food.

All of the things he was saying were totally contradicted by his body image.

Lawyer, accountant, plumber or software engineer - it doesn't matter what you do; other people are very likely to make a judgment about your abilities by how you are packaged.

Your colleagues and your boss will all make decisions about the quality of your work and your promotion prospects by your dress and body image.

We tend to make decisions very quickly about people we come into contact with. Psychologists have established that we subconsciously make around 11 decisions about other people within the first six seconds of meeting them.

Personnel managers have admitted in surveys to making a decision about a job applicant within the first 30 seconds of an interview, these decisions being made primarily on how the people looked and carried themselves.

How you look will confirm or contradict what you say. First impressions are also lasting impressions and take a lot of changing.

We can't all have the perfect looks or the perfect body, whatever that is. It doesn't matter what shape you are but it does matter how you package that shape, if you want to make an impact on other people.

How you package yourself can also make a huge difference to your self-confidence. Have you ever noticed how confident and self-assured you feel when you dress in something you feel good in and when someone genuinely compliments you?

The problem is that many of us don't have a clue as to what really suits us and compliments our shape. This is why so many business people are turning to image consultants to improve their personal impact.

This may seem like a costly luxury, but consider the cost of restricting your career or possibly not winning a new account.

Get advice

So what do you do? You could ask your nearest and dearest to be honest with you and tell you what they really think about what you wear. And you really need to listen and heed what they say.

Buy fashion magazines to keep up-to-date on the latest trends. Visit a good clothes store where the sales assistants will give you unbiased advice.

It's also important to look after the details. Do your spectacles suit your face? Are you in need of a more modern haircut? What does that cheap plastic watch say about you?

Men need to be careful about novelty ties and fancy socks with a business suit. Women need to watch their make-up, the colours they use and the perfume they wear - the key is looking elegant and professional.

You may have a lot more to offer than a jar of anti-wrinkle cream or a packet of cornflakes. However, no one is going to pick you off the shelf if they don't like your packaging.