Issue:June 2015

EXTERNAL DELIVERY – Perfuming the Pig

My apologies to the swine lovers of the world for the title to my column this month. I like pigs. They’re cute, smart, have a nose way more sensitive than a bloodhound’s, and help the environment by eating garbage. Then we eat the pig. I’m a little confused by that. So that you do not think of me as discriminating against pigs, here are a few more animal terms that are used in everyday English.

-Cash cow

-Snake in the grass

-That’s a real dog

-Tiger by the tail

-Bull in a china shop

-For the birds

-The cat’s meow

-Horsing around

-Lionized by his men

-A little squirrely

-Sounds fishy

-He’s a real stud

-Monkey on my back

-Elephant in the room

Because I turn companies around and buy and sell them for a living, I have often heard the term Perfuming the Pig. The expression pertains to both the buy and sell sides. When I am on the buy side, throughout negotiations, I will generally make the point that the company is overpriced and not nearly as good as the sellers want us to believe it is. In order not to insult the sellers and get into a heated debate, I will always state that it appears that they have been Perfuming the Pig. I say it in a kidding manner with a smile, but the sellers also know where I am coming from. I have never seen the people on the other side of the table not smile when I have said that.

When I am on the sell side, I will also use the same expression. In this case, when I am negotiating the sale price, at the proper time, I will assure the buyers that I have not Perfumed the Pig and that the asking price is fair for the company. Again, I have always seen the people on the other side of the table smile when I use that expression.

Ann Richards, the former Governor of Texas, had a memorable use of the expression by stating that, “You can put lipstick and earrings on a hog and call it Monique, but it’s still a pig.”

Perfuming the Pig is also used extensively in marketing. The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) in any company has one of the least secure jobs amongst all employees. The executive recruiting firm, Spencer Stuart, states that a CMO should only expect to be in the position for 23 months before being terminated. This is because senior management in most companies look at the CMO as the Chief Perfumer of the Pig (CPP rather than CMO). Oftentimes, management is expecting the CMO to take a retail product or retail product line that is not selling and apply marketing perfume to it so that it will sell.

Unfortunately, unless the CPP/CMO puts a massive amount of perfume on the pig(s), a retail product that no one wants to buy will remain a retail product that no one wants to buy. In this case, unlike buying and selling companies where you have plenty of time for your due diligence investigation, perfuming up a retail product that no one really wants or needs is very misleading in my opinion. This is because the retail dud product looks like a great buy, it being all perfumed up, and is now an impulse purchase. Once you get it home and the perfume has worn off, you realize that it really is a dud. Want to bet that the receipt states “all sales final” and no returns?” Also, the expression, buyer beware is certainly a good thing to keep in mind in the land of the perfumed pig. So keep in mind that if it looks like a pig, goes oink oink, and smells like Armani cologne, then it may be a perfumed pig.

John A. Bermingham is former Executive Vice President & COO of 1st Light Energy & Conservation Lighting, Inc. and former Co-President and COO of AgraTech, a biotech enterprise. He was also President & CEO of Cord Crafts, LLC; President & CEO of Alco Consumer Products, Inc., Lang Holdings, Inc., and President, Chairman, and CEO of Ampad, all of which he turned around and successfully sold. With more than 20 years of turnaround experience, he also held the positions of Chairman, President, and CEO of Centis, Inc., Smith Corona, Corporation, and Rolodex Corporation as well as turning around several business units of AT&T Consumer Products Group and served as the EVP of the Electronics Group, and President of the Magnetic Products Group, Sony Corporation of America.