The Chip Insider®'s Obituary for Bob Graham
September 10, 1998: From the front lines . . .
Our industry has lost one of its marketing geniuses. Bob Graham has passed away at the age of 69. Loved by those he mentored, hated by those who crossed him, and feared by those who competed against him. Bob was brilliant, too good, almost always right and, always controversial. He made few mistakes in a field littered with the bones of lesser executives. Customers often hated him because he would not listen to their wants. But then, they would quietly admire him when solutions were delivered to their needs. As a mentor, he turned my interest from studying the cold economics of the industry to the warmth of marketing.
Steve Irving (the inventor of plasma etching) had told me, "marketing is a plank job, you don't want to go into that." It is. And if you imagine Bob as Luke Skywalker, in the movie 'Return of the Jedi,' walking the plank bound and blindfolded to be eaten by a giant sand worm and then turning the advantage against all odds, you come close to Bob Graham's marketing ability. Bob Graham is the only man for whom, when leaving a company, I would get calls from competitors wanting to know where he was going so they could buy stock in the company.
At Fairchild, he pushed hard, against stiff management opposition, to price parts according to grade. The argument had been that they cost the same to make, so they should be priced the same. But in the face of rising inventories, Bob won out. The excess inventories were soon eliminated and Fairchild started a revenue rise that eventually took it to the top of the semiconductor industry.
As one of the founders of Intel, he figured how to harness the power of Moore's law with the memories they had just invented in the early seventies. He created the "Intel Delivers" positioning statement that ultimately became a part of the company's DNA. He matched Intel's design cycle to the system designer's, introducing a new generation of memories with every 4X increase in bits. Others fell behind, following the letter of Moore's law, by trying to get ahead by introducing with every 2X increase.
Jim Morgan is famous for turning around Applied Materials in the late seventies. Bob is less known for his major contribution of shifting Applied's focus from shipping hardware to delivering solutions. Today this is immortalized in the Applied's positioning statement, 'Total Solutions.' He then went on to successfully lead the launch of a string of products that put Applied on a trajectory to be where it is today.
Leaving Applied, Bob then rescued Novellus by doing the unthinkable: shifting the focus from delivering solutions to providing the best and most productive hardware. I recall my response to this as being something along the lines of, "you're going to do what?" He implemented this approach by taking my equipment cost of ownership models and turning them into a business tool. He then dragged the entire chip industry kicking and screaming to the belief that productivity mattered.
If Bob were alive, he would certainly tell you that he should not get all the credit for these successes. For like Luke Skywalker, Bob knew how to use 'the force.' The force of combining the people he worked with, with that of customers he served.
What About Bob - Robert Graham's video biography of his career with comments about him, sometimes roasting him, from industry luminaries such as Gordon Moore, Marshall Cox, Mel Phelps, and G. Dan Hutcheson. Graham was one of the early pioneers of technology marketing and he became known for his razor sharp acumen, which came from listening to customers and figuring out their real needs, rather than classical decision-by-survey marketing methods. His 'Intel Delivers' was a key factor in the company's early success, addressing the continual problem of fab yield crashes. His key dictums included that you watched customers - not listened to them; "R&D is a tactical arm of strategic marketing;" and that there were only four factors in a customer's buy decision: "Needs, Features, Benefits, and Wants" of which the important ones for B2B marketing were needs and benefits. He was key to turning Applied Materials around when it was close to bankruptcy in the late nineteen-seventies, providing the customer-oriented marketing insight that Jim Morgan needed to lead AMAT to profitability. Later, he revolutionized equipment marketing by aligning Applied to provide solutions, not tools. They were the first to ensure that a customer’s application problems were addressed with the tools they bought. Applied was the first to use the solutions in its marketing, which was first copied by Xerox. Within 15 years, the solution marketing approach was being regularly taught in business schools.