Hard to believe it’s been nine years and a few months since Fred Hoar died.
For newbies in the tech biz, during the formative years of Silicon Valley Fred was the dean of All Things Marketing. The Toastmaster of High-Tech. And he wore this mantle like a suit of shining armor almost from the time he migrated here during the Vietnam ’60s to be the voice of Fairchild Semiconductor, the seminal force in just about All Things Silicon. Prior to this he’d worked in mid-town Manhattan during the Mad Men ’50s and early ’60s, applying advertising and PR to RCA (that’s the Radio Corporation of America, for you Millennials — um, look it up) overlooking Rock Center.
I had the honor of delivering remarks at his memorial service, to an SRO crowd in a large church in Palo Alto on a sunny but sad winter’s afternoon. While the end had not come suddenly, the kick-in-gut news was still a shock, especially for the many of us who’d worked for him at one of his many stops along a glittering career path in Santa Clara County, from Fairchild’s tilt-up in Mountain View to his lectern at Santa Clara University where he regaled eager graduate students right to the end.
Another tribute to his force-of-nature personality and charm: how often so many of us recall his homilies and observations. And what more could a teacher/mentor hope for than to have his apprentices so fondly remember the advice, insights and admonitions of the Master?
Thought of him again recently at this year’s RSA show. Fred liked these bustling events and made no bones about it, unlike many of us who pretend to dread them even as we sign off on the purchase orders that seem to grow chubbier every year, in any economy. Sometimes I think everything I learned about how to survive and prosper in the Valley I absorbed from my Apple years under Fred — and listening to him for years thereafter. And what I’m reminded of at an event like RSA, is that that the more things change in this business the more they stay the same. Of course, the techniques of “global communications” may be radically different than Fred’s day — the prominence of social marketing comes quickly to mind — but the basics of value propositions and holding peoples’ interest remain the same. The most obvious differences are superficial: people don’t line up for phones anymore they continually stare into the ones in their hands. Far fewer coats and ties, way more denim. And women’s fashion has, thankfully, lost the shoulder pads. The booths are sleeker and convey more at-a-glance information (necessary for the ADD that’s a universal in business today). But those marketers who rise above the pack still practice what Fred preached: keep it simple, memorable and worth peoples’ time. No one was ever bored into buying anything. People never pay real attention to “marketing”, they’ll always pay attention to “interesting”. Thanks, Freddy.
When he’s not ranting on this site, Stan DeVaughn holds forth along with comrade-in-communication Peter Davé on The Write Stuff, the blog of Silicon Valley’s premiere technology content-creation agency Write Angle, where IT vendors go for written content that drives revenue.