Honorary Conferrings Speeches Archive

    at Aula Maxima, UCC

  • 02 Nov 2016








DR MICHAEL B. MURPHY, President, University College Cork on 2 November 2016, on the occasion of the conferring of the Degree of Doctor of Economic Science, honoris causa, on REGIS MCKENNA




A Sheánsailéar, a Árd-Mheara, a mhéara luimní, a mhuintir na hOllscoile agus a dhaoine uaisle,


It should not be a surprise that the first encounter with one of the world’s most accomplished Marketing Practitioners is one never to be forgotten. Mine, with Regis McKenna, did not disappoint. On 16 November, 2015 Regis, along with fellow trustees and leadership of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California hosted breakfast for UCC staff collaborating in the Museum’s celebration of George Boole’s 200th birthday. Regis presented me with his business card, this one, which simply describes the presenter as Regis McKenna – Himself! It provides an address and contact details set out beside an embossed @ sign with a shamrock at the centre. Only an Irishman, of course, would recognise the significance of “Himself”!


Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and raised in an Irish Catholic family of seven boys in the 1940s and 50s, Regis McKenna attended Saint Vincent College and is a liberal arts graduate (in philosophy) of Duquesne University.


After graduating, McKenna worked with a technical publisher. One Sunday in mid-1963, he apparently received a call from his boss, who asked if Regis wanted to move to San Francisco, giving him one minute decide! And so it was that Regis and his wife Dianne moved to northern California at the very moment in time when Silicon Valley was germinating as a unique regional technology culture.


According to the San Jose Mercury News, Regis McKenna became one of the 100 people who made Silicon Valley what it is today, a legendary industry figure, widely referred to as a “marketing guru’s marketing guru” who promoted technical products as if they were consumer goods before they actually were consumer goods, focusing always on the consumer.  He has also been called a "czar," "wizard," "Svengali," even "philosopher king", and is known to many as “the man who put Silicon Valley on the map”


After working in the marketing departments of two early semiconductor-pioneering companies, McKenna founded his own high-tech marketing firm, Regis McKenna, Inc., in Silicon Valley in 1971.  His company rapidly became the preferred marketing outsource partner for high-tech startups. The firm evolved to become the marketing strategy firm of choice for international clients across many different industries. Over the subsequent 30 years, Regis McKenna, Inc. worked with almost 300 high-tech companies.


McKenna helped launch some of the most important technological innovations of the last thirty years, including amongst others, the first microprocessor (with Intel Corporation), the first personal computer (with Apple Computers), the first recombinant DNA genetically engineered product (with Genentech, Inc.), and the first retail computer store (known as The Byte Shop).



Regis McKenna is probably best known for taking the story of the founding of Apple Computers by a couple of young entrepreneurs (one of which was a college “drop-out”), operating from a garage in Los Altos, and weaving the tale into international folklore. 


It is often stated that Steve Jobs may have been a genius.  Jobs’ finely honed vision was certainly evident even in those early days working as a garage-based start-up. Jobs sought out persons that he would learn from, and one of his first tutors was Regis McKenna. 


Jobs heard that McKenna managed the Intel Corporation marketing account, whose adds Jobs admired, and wanted McKenna to “manage” the two-man garage operation!


In 1976 Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak “approached [him] and asked for help in launching what was to be the world's first personal computer.” He agreed, because he “liked Apple's vision”.  Rob Janoff of McKenna’s firm designed the iconic Apple logo back in 1977 (he is quoted as saying that he “put the bite in there…to ensure that the figure was not interpreted as a tomato.”!).


Regis later recalled that “Apple wasn't happy with the name Apple after they got going and growing. They actually looked at IBM and said, 'We don't look like IBM. We're not, you know, dignified.'” McKenna made a two-hour presentation to Apple's employees in which he said: “That's exactly what you do want. You want to be different from IBM. You don't want to be the same. You don't want to emulate them. You want to do all of the things that distinguish you from them.” 


Jobs and Wozniack, still only 21 and 25 years of age, took McKenna’s sagacious advice to heart.  Their collaboration continued; through most of the 1980’s, Regis was the only non-employee to serve on Apple’s Executive Management Staff.  Indeed, Steve Jobs would quote advice he received from McKenna: “The best marketing is education”.


McKenna is quoted as saying that the biggest mistake of his career was turning down an offer of 20% of Apple stock in lieu of payment for his services. “I was looking at my cash flow. And that's one of the reasons why I turned down Apple's offer.” His letter turning down the offer is reputed to be on display at Apple's headquarters. 


Beyond Apple, Regis McKenna and his firm worked with a number of other high-tech start-ups during their formation years including: America Online, Compaq, Electronic Arts, Genentech, Linear Technology, Microsoft, National Semiconductor, Silicon Graphics, 3COM, amongst others.


Ireland - IDA

In 1976, Regis McKenna’s advertising agency was retained to represent the Irish Development Authority (IDA) in Silicon Valley.  Working with Seamus Cashman (Director of IDA in USA, based in New York City) and others, they set about convincing Silicon Valley executives to set up operations in Ireland, thus facilitating access for US companies to the Common Market, while avoiding tariffs. 


Realising that the success of Silicon Valley was largely built on a network of people who in turn relied on that network for gaining knowledge on business and technical trends, McKenna encouraged the IDA to set up an office in Silicon Valley, so that IDA staff would interact directly with high-tech companies.  They identified those companies with either a president or senior executive of Irish heritage, and invited them to visit Ireland. This not only increased awareness of possibilities for locating the European hub of their companies in Ireland, but also allowed the establishment and nurturing of trust between companies and the IDA. Thus, McKenna helped the IDA to develop a long-term strategy towards securing Ireland as the location of choice for European headquarters of high-tech companies


Regis McKenna’s overall philosophy of marketing is to expand the responsibilities to involve everyone in the enterprise, and make the customer a partner in the long-term value creation.  Since his retirement from active consulting in 2000, McKenna continues to write and lecture extensively on the social and market effects of technological change advancing innovations in marketing theories and practices.  He is the author of numerous articles and publications, including several books on marketing: “The Regis Touch” (1985), “Who’s Afraid of Big Blue” (1989), “Relationship Marketing” (1991), “Real Time, Preparing for the Age of the Never Satisfied Customer” (1997), and “Total Access” (2001). 


McKenna is a founding member of Santa Clara University Center for Science, Technology & Society, and is a Trustee Emeritus of that University. He is on the Board of Directors and Advisory Boards of a range of companies, including the Toyota Motor Company, Silicon Valley Bank, Opus Capital, and a number of high-tech companies in Silicon Valley.  He also serves on the Advisory Boards of the University of California Berkeley Haas Graduate School of Business, and of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.


Regis credits his life-long love of learning with motivating him to become what he is today.  He certainly found his niche in Silicon Valley -  which he describes as a living laboratory for new technologies – by supporting those technically-minded people who have developed complex technologies and products to communicate and engage in a dialogue with diverse markets and customers.  McKenna credits his university education in philosophy with providing him with a strong foundation for curiosity, while Silicon Valley gave him the tools with which to experiment and implement. 


Chancellor, I am delighted to present to you, for the conferment of a Doctorate in Economic Science, Mr. Regis McKenna, proud Irish American, mentor to many of the creators of the modern global economy and midwife to the success of the Industrial Development Agency in shaping the modern Irish economy.


Praehonorabilis cancellarie, totaque universitas!


Praesento vobis hunc meum filium, quem scio tam moribus quam doctrina habilem et idoneum esse qui admittatur, honoris causa, ad gradum Doctoratus in utroque Jure, tam Civili quam Canonico,  idque tibi fide mea testor ac spondeo totique Academiae.


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