The Basics: Experiential Marketing with Shipping Containers


In this article we will explore: 

What is Experiential Marketing?

Why does Experiential Marketing Work?

Where should you activate Experiential Marketing?

How to Start Experiential Marketing with Shipping Containers.

Examples of Experiential Marketing with Shipping Containers.


What is Experiential Marketing?

Experiential marketing is a strategy to engage new and potential customers. Historically, marketing campaigns have been focused on spreading a universal message, to the greatest number of people. While this technique can grow awareness around a brand, there’s no connection or social equity built between the businesses and the audience. In this scenario, your customers are passive and most likely ignoring your message.

Engagement marketing encourages customer participation with the brand and provides a platform for customers to actively involved and develop relationships with a brand. The philosophy is that customers should only engage in sales relationships when and how they want. Experiential programs are typically sensory experiences with emotional connotations while also delivering logic-based value propositions and supporting evidence. When done well, you’ll start connecting with customers who want to hear from you in interesting and meaningful ways.

To get the juices flowing below is a framework through which marketers may analyze their current programs against experiential principals and begin to develop an engagement-centered strategy.

  1. Audit your customer experience
  2. Create a brand platform and develop touchpoints with customers
  3. Design the brand experience
  4. Coordinate people, products, and process against the brand proposition
  5. Communicate brand proposition internally and externally
  6. Monitoring performance to ensure the brand is meeting its objectives.

To learn more about what experiential marketing looks like, read Brand Storytelling through Experiential Marketing.


What is Experiential Marketing Recap:

  • Create active customers by focusing on engagement
  • Customers have agency in whether they want to engage in a sales process
  • Start by analyzing your current marketing and communication strategy
  • Check out an example of engagement marketing done well




Why does Experiential Marketing Work?

Experiential marketing has one primary goal: to facilitate an emotional connection between the consumer and your product or service. We hear and say that statement often. “Emotional connection to the product or brand.” But what does that mean?

Do you have a special piece of jewelry or a favorite chair in your home? What makes it so special? Does it fit particularly well? Does it bring out your eyes? Does it support your back? These are all valid reasons to feel some affinity towards an object. However, these aren’t the reasons that specific chair or watch is your favorite. It’s your favorite because that’s where you rocked your daughter to sleep, trying to give your partner a few extra minutes.  It’s your favorite because your grandmother brought it with her when she immigrated. It’s your favorite because it perfectly complements your ‘interview’ shoes, making you feel more confident.

Experiential Marketing Shipping Containers

Whether you realize it or not, your things embody your sense of self and identity. If there’s enough of an emotional connection, these items can even become a receptacle for our memories, relationships, and experiences. Your things tell the world and yourself something about who you are. Even if you don’t want it to.

This phenomenon isn’t metaphorical, it’s physiological. The same areas of the brain that are involved in thinking about the self are also involved when we create associations between external things and ourselves, through ownership. And, there are recent studies to suggest that this association isn’t limited to physical items but also those owned and stored digitally. So, the effects of experiential marketing are two-fold.

First, it provides an opportunity for brands to connect in one-on-one interactions with consumers. For some guidance on how to facilitate these relationships read, Experiential Marketing Should Feel Like a Good First Date. Theoretically, these interactions happen in a location where powerful and usually happy memories are being made (we’ll get to that later). So, through experiential marketing, your brand becomes consciously or unconsciously associated with those memories. After the interaction, your brand is emotionally connected to the user as a receptacle for those memories.

Second, it introduces a brand, product, or service as an opportunity for developing the life and sense of self a customer’s desire. It realizes the value propositions. Half the battle is persuading a customer that your brand can elevate their lives. Elevation happens in a promise of achievement through performance, power through social equity, or affiliation through membership. Whatever value your brand is providing, experiential marketing is a way to position yourself through one-on-one interactions as a means of achieving, empowering and affiliating. After the event, your brand is emotionally connected to the user as a brand that offers change or fulfillment of the human spirit. Learn What You Need to Know About Human Spirit Marketing here.


Why Experiential Marketing Works Recap:

  • Personal belongings embody someone’s sense of self and identity
  • It’s true… that’s how our brain works
  • Personal belongings don’t need to be physical items, they can be digital products or ideas.
  • Experiential marketing helps customers’ brains to make a connection between powerful memories and a brand
  • Experiential marketing helps customers’ make a connection between your brand and a life/ self they desire




Where should I activate Experiential Marketing?

As you might imagine, Boxman Studios’ two most frequented geographical areas are New York City and Los Angeles. Although you aren’t restricted to these two cities, they offer brands the three most important features in any activation space, density, accessibility, and opportunity.

Accessibility refers to the logistics of getting to and staying in a space. This is a huge deal for the user-experience side of engagement marketing. It’s imperative that you choose a location where people will be able to physically approach you, but also where the community and environment make you approachable. A quality activation location will be safe, connected, welcoming, and allow for authentic experiences. The architecture and design of the space should have proper physical form, a mix of land uses and functions, and social opportunity. Here, we are considering how the physical space can bring people together, to manifest community in a very literal sense.  When we combine the physicality of a space, with the marketing prowess of developing feelings of membership in a brand’s community, you get what we call Third Placemaking. This is the paradigm by which commerce and community become synonymous.

Interested in the concept? Learn more à What Should You Know About Third Placemaking?

Experiential Marketing with Shipping Containers

Opportunity is tied to the concept of probability. How likely is it that the people around your activation will want to engage with you? As much as I’d like to give you the answer, it will really depend on your market and your value propositions. If you’ve done your homework and know who you’re marketing to, the answer should come intuitively (i.e. music lovers go to concerts, sports fans go to college bowl games, trade professionals go to tradeshows). Choose locations that are ripe for developing powerful memories and where your customers are in their element.

Density refers to how many people will be in the space. You want to choose a location that is already a draw for people. While some brands have the customer base to hold a stand-alone event, it’s much more efficient to piggy-back off a larger event that would interest your customers. If you’re on the fence and looking at density with ROI in mind, we suggest using this formula:

(Expensed Cost of Large Assets + Variable Event Costs)/ .1 = Total number of event attendees.

So, what does that mean?

Imagine you bought a mobile event space like a food truck or pop-up container. These are large purchases that you (hopefully) plan to use a few times. Just like you pay your home off in installments, you must also account for the costs of the space over the life of its use. So, if you’ve spent $100,00.00 on an event space, and you intend to take it to 20 events over the next 3 years, you would use $5,000 in the “expensed cost of large assets” space, not the full $100,000 dollars.

But wait! The event space isn’t the only cost going into this activation! Include all other costs for this single activation per day in “variable event costs.” These costs could include activators, takeaways, technology packages, and any other expenses incurred with the planning and execution of the event. Although it varies, for the purposes of explaining the formula, let’s assume that you’ve spent an additional $20,000 to make this the best event ever!

Before we get to the fun math, let’s make sure we understand the value of .1. The standard CPM (cost per thousand impressions) online is approximately $100. So, $0 .10 represents the cost for a single impression online. Please keep in mind, these are comparable values, not the rule. You may find that your CPM is much lower or much higher based on the industry and channel you’re using. You may also believe that brand awareness and affinity is more valuable than an online impression. Alternatively, you might be more interested in KPI’s lower in the marketing funnel, like conversions or leads. Please feel free to adjust the number to best fit your business. Some additional information can be found in, How to Avoid Spending a Million Dollars a Minute.

($5,000 + $20,000) / .1 = 250,000

Under these circumstances, the brand should attend events with at least 250,000 attendees across the duration of the event. Meaning, you should not expect 250,000 per day. If the event is a week, you should multiply the daily attendees by 7. You get the gist.


Where Should You Activate Recap:

  • Think about physical, spiritual, and emotional accessibility
  • Choose locations with the opportunity to interact with your target markets
  • Consider density of a location with the formula: Cost/CPI= # of attendees


 How to Start Experiential Marketing with Shipping Containers

Pop-ups are crowned as an easy, affordable solution for immersive experiences, marketing testing, and product launches. When you’re planning, of course you want to start with the fun stuff. Then reality hits. You have this amazing idea, but how do you actually make it happen? What are the logistics of executing an experiential marketing campaign? Although this blog is touching on pop-up retail, which is very different than experiential marketing, How to Make your Pop-up Happen, is a great resource for initial permitting and logistics considerations.

  1. What do you want?

In experiential marketing, we typically start with two kinds of client interactions. Sometimes clients will already have a design in mind. They could have a rendering or something scribbled on the back of the napkin. Either way, the client has an idea where they will take the unit, what it should look like, which functions it should have, and how large or small it must be. In these cases, we will still need to engage in some design and engineering processes to bring your two-dimensional idea to life with 3-dimensional shipping containers. We consider how things will fasten together, how the structure will hold up to weather at your activation site and the best solutions for delivery and activation.

Experiential Marketing Design Process

Other times, clients come to us to help them work out the best design solution for their event. It’s still helpful to know the goals and constraints of the activation (like footprint, what kind of ground will be underneath, who will be occupying the space, and the states you plan to use the unit). From there, our conceptual design team can put together a sketch-up file, based upon a creative brief and strategy, to show you every angle of the event space. After the conceptual phase and client approval, we start the same engineering process mentioned above.

For a better look at some experiential marketing strategies, browse through these blog posts, where our team explores trends and opportunities in experiential marketing

Occasionally, the design portion of a project will require additional hours for research and revisions. In these cases, we’ll ask a client to sign a design agreement for a certain number of hours. This is a contract that helps us to dedicate more time to a single client or project. We charge $125/ hour in design contracts.

  1. How much does it cost?

Depending on the scope of a project and the timeline associated with it, our estimation process could be happening during or after the design process. When a client calls us or submits our contact form, the first question is nearly always around budget and price.

The only “ready to go” pricing we have is for our Kinetic Series. Our line of standardized products is already quantified with available pricing. And, because the design and engineering are nearly complete (aside from code and permit considerations for your state) you save a significant portion of those costs.

Watering Hole: Shipping Container Bar

Bodega: Mobile Retail/ C-Store

Bandstand: Next Generation Pop-Up Exhibit

Cantina: Container Walk-up Restaurant

For custom builds, leases, and design services we’ll need to spend a little time working through the scope of the project to provide you with an estimate. We can show you examples of past work and share budget ranges based on those builds. However, the scope of experiential marketing contracts varies so widely, that number may not paint an accurate picture of your end price.

Still have questions? Read, What to Expect from Boxman’s Design Department.

If there is a number you’re looking to hit, please tell us up front. We have an amazing team of designers, fabricators, and logisticians that spend an insane amount of time looking at ways to cut costs for our clients. You may not be able to get everything you want on a restricted budget, but if you’re transparent with us, we can point you in the right direction with value-engineering.

  1. What if I don’t want to own it?

Turnkey event rentals are perfect for your business to develop branded hospitality, marketing, concessions, or retail spaces at an amazing value. Our inventory is packed with unique floorplans, developed with speed, mobility, and wow-factor in mind. To get the full Boxman Studios experience, quickly and affordably, browse our most popular assets online or, reach out to us to learn how we can Design, Develop, and Deploy a custom leasable asset. For ideas on how to use our leasable assets, read: 6 Unique ways to use Boxman Studios’ 20’ Suite.

Rental Assets:

20’ Suite/ Half-Suite:

Super 10’

20’ Concession Stand

10’ Concession Stand

  1. How are they built?

Our structures work through our manufacturing process in 4 phases. First is the heavy fabrication. If you’re working with a purpose-built unit this is where the large steel beams are welded to frame out the exterior structure. If you’re repurposing an existing container, this is the time when we make our cuts into the steel frame and add structural components added to the opening to make it structurally sound.

After heavy fabrication comes light fabrication. This is the part of our process where windows, doors, siding, electrical, plumbing and mechanical elements are built on to the structure.

Next, we sandblast, paint and/or powder coat. Through our unique process, we ensure that paint arrives in good condition.

boxman studios process

Once the paint has dried, the unit goes through our fits and finishes department.  This is the most exciting part of our manufacturing process because you start to see your original idea come to life. In the previous phases, it can seem like nothing much is happening. It can be difficult to imagine how this bare-bones structure can ever end up looking like what you imagined. But trust us, we’ve got you!

Finally, with fits and finishes complete, we add the finishing touches like vinyl branding (read more about that hereà Quick Tips for Vinyl Wraps), flags, and canvas banners. Once all your materials are packed inside the box, it’s ready to be driven out of the shop and to your activation space.



  1. How does it travel?

One of the philosophies that we live by at Boxman Studios is that people are nomadic, and structures should be designed and built to be shipped. Every single structure we build is designed and fabricated to be shipped. We make sure to use durable materials, and best practices to ensure that the structure arrives ready to go. So, be it plane, train, ship, or rig, if a shipping container can fit on the vehicle, it can be used to deliver your unit. While over the road trucking is our most common shipping method, we have experience using barges and trains for deployment.

For more information about how we deliver your event space, read our eBook: Boxman Studios’ Process: Design Develop Deploy




  1. How do I track my ROI?

Start by setting goals. What action or reaction are you looking for from customers? From those goals, it’s best to set day-of metrics and consequential metrics to measure post-event activity. Finally, you derive meaning from the data you’ve collected. Below is a simple chart of the most common uses of this ROI tracking structure. It isn’t exhaustive, but perhaps it will give you a great jumping-off point. You can find a little more information here à How do you quantify a marketing experience?




Getting Started with Shipping Containers Recap:

  • Design the space based on a strategy around your goals
  • Kinetic Series, our line of shipping container products including a mobile bar, restaurant, expo space, and pop up retail, has ready-to-go pricing
  • Estimation for custom projects will take a little work from our end
  • Leases are available for short-term, fast-moving projects, or if you just don’t want to own the unit at the end of your activation
  • Our containers are modified and built in our manufacturing facility in Charlotte, NC
  • For custom solutions, fits and finishes, paint, and branding are all up to you
  • For leases, there may be some restrictions on how you can personalize or modify the structure
  • Using planes, trains, barges, and rigs we’ll get your exhibit there on time
  • Track your return by referencing your original strategy


How does Boxman Studios interact with me?

Boxman Studios acts like a partner. We’re dedicated to guiding you through your build, helping you make informed decisions, and making sure you get the value out of your container space. We get that expectations of marketers are constantly changing and whether you’re part of an agency or an in-house department, you must be flexible and adaptable in your role. We work in much the same way. Because everything from sales to welding happens under one roof, we have the flexibility to zig when your boss wants to zag. Our ability to turn around change-orders quickly makes us a good vendor, our expert ability to support and adapt with you makes us an even better partner. That’s why, with Boxman Studios, the job isn’t finished until it’s finished. Everyone at our facility is 100% focused on providing a creative, collaborative, and mutually beneficial relationship with our clients. For more about our culture browse, 5 Core Values at the Heart of Boxman Studios’ Innovative Culture.




What are some examples of Experiential Marketing with Shipping Containers?




Chick Fil A

Shipping Container Experiential Marketing



shipping container experiential marketing


shipping container experiential marketing


College Marketing



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