Rambus CMO Jerome Nadel recently sat down with The CMO Club to discuss the diverse origins of his marketing career. Similar to many of his peers, Nadel did not originally set out to become a marketer. Indeed, his background is in psychology and scientific research, both of which saliently continue to influence his marketing approach today.
“While in grad school and working on my PhD in Psychology, I [received] a research fellowship with the National Scientific Foundation at Williams Air Force Base. The first summer I spent there reinforced the awesomeness that can happen when psychology is applied to design,” Nadel told the publication. “One project I worked on involved an F15 flight simulator. A helmet had been developed for pilots to wear in the simulator that sensed the positioning of the pilot’s head and where he was looking.”
Image Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Tony R. Tolley
Unfortunately, says Nadel, the simulator wasn’t working for all pilots. His challenge? To try and understand the human factors that may have caused the helmet to malfunction. After investigating the issue, Nadel identified the individual pilot pupil size as the variable responsible for the simulator discrepancies.
“I loved that job! I was able to connect the values I was learning with real-world systems,” he explained. “It taught me that psychology isn’t esoteric; it has real world implications.”
Nadel subsequently kicked off his professional career at IBM’s human factors lab, ultimately making the transition from research to marketing when he moved to Unisys in 1987. In 1993, he began working at a user experience-consulting firm where one of his clients was a well-funded French start-up.
“In 1999, following my teams’ engagement, the CEO of that company asked me to interview for the CMO position with Don Lucas, an original investor in Oracle, one of the biggest names in the venture capital world, and the chairman of the board of this company,” Nadel continued. “That job taught me how to be a real marketer including how to establish real value, positioning, strategy, execution, selling, and yes, telling a compelling story. We coined the term Predictive CRM and eventually sold the company for 11X earnings in 2000. It was all a blur of positive reinforcement.”
Currently, Nadel is helping Rambus transition from exclusively licensing IP to making products, such as the recently launched R+ DDR4 data buffer chip.
“Our IP is a product,” he explained. “If we [are] able to think of it as a product, ideally we’d want to make it easy to integrate as well as provide tools and services to make sure people are using it correctly. We’re talking about a cultural transformation to embrace design thinking and product-centricity.”
To help smooth the transition from licensing IP to making physical products, Nadel is overseeing the design of a detailed, internal digital dashboard that precisely tracks and displays the status of all projects.
“This will have everyone in the company thinking ‘product.’ We have to be good on the inside to be good on the outside and this new tool helps to make it both visual and visceral,” he concluded.