Breakthrough Marketing Can Only Come From Invention-Based Craft

Adweek Project Isaac and Isaac+ Awards look for true firsts

"A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions."

Ed Brojerdi Illustration: Alex Fine

Oliver Wendell Holmes' words have never seemed as relevant to our business as they do today. As brands and agencies strive to produce creative and strategic output—from Super Bowl spots to mobile commerce applications and everything in between—there is a palpable desire to do something or make something that has never been done or made before. Something that will inspire awe, something that will earn the attention of our generation's attention-challenged audience. Something that will challenge the notion of what marketing, advertising and media look like, something that, with a nod to Mr. Holmes, a physician, poet, professor, lecturer and author just might stretch a few human minds.

Previous generations have been largely wary of invention, often leaving the lonely outcast or perceived oddball to make the big upgrades and the breakthroughs. But today's culture revels in embracing the risk of possible failure, chalking it up to A/B testing, work shopping and prototyping, and rewards the creation of the new.

Whether it's the hundreds of thousands of people taking active roles on platforms like Kickstarter, by helping those with a great original idea move from concept to execution, or it's the hundreds of millions of consumers shunning establishment organizations and heading for those that deliver novel and valuable products such as Apple, Warby Parker and Netflix.

More and more people today feel that they get to fuel and participate in an inventive spirit. Indeed, the marriage of interactivity—something millennials and the younger cohorts coming up underneath them see as utility rather than technology and demand—and invention is a powerful union that marketers must fluidly understand and tap.

And we are changing customer service expectations by recognizing companies like Amazon and shifting our behaviors and buying habits. We are quickly adopting emerging and game-changing brands like Tesla or our client BMW i, brands that are fundamentally changing an entire industry. We love, recognize and reward the firsts that are being created every day.

And as kbs+ and Adweek embark on our second annual partnership of the Isaac+ Awards, the student portion of Adweek Project Isaac, we are excited about the opportunity to identify, nurture and catalyze new concepts.

The Isaacs were created to recognize the inventive concepts that are the North Star of their respective categories, and it is always exciting to see which entries hit that mark.

In past competitions, we honored a billboard in arid Lima, Peru, that captures potable water from the atmosphere and, in the case of the inaugural Isaac+ winner, a solar-powered art, environmental and outdoor charging installation prototyped and created in the kbs+ maker studio space in the heart of our agency headquarters in New York.

The Isaac+ Awards will be judged by a diverse set of thought leaders hailing from multiple industries, from venture capital investors such as Helayne Spivak, director of the VCU Brandcenter, to startup operators and technologists such as Tylor Garland, founder and CEO of Boombang, and Scott Cullather, global managing partner of inVNT, and from industrial designers to agency creatives, strategists and entrepreneurs like Jeff Benjamin. Their collaboration to determine our finalists is bound to be an eye-opening exercise and one that says a lot about the way new ideas come to fruition in our world today. The winners will have the chance to build out their concepts during a summer internship at kbs+ in New York.

As noted computer scientist Alan Kay said, the best way to predict the future is to invent it. It seems much of society is making sure to deliver on Kay's belief. We're excited to see what is entered in the competition and then play our small role in this much larger pursuit.

The deadline for Isaac+ submissions is April 18. The deadline for Adweek Project Isaac is June 1.

Ed Brojerdi (@edbro) is the CEO of kbs+ New York and co-founder of the agency's creative tech boutique, Spies & Assassins.