What is a Shipping Container Activation?

Shipping containers are traditionally known as a transport unit for moving products and materials from A to B. You will see them shipped by truck, rail, and sea. There are over seventeen million containers globally, and most of the world’s international trade is transported in shipping containers. Here is where things get interesting; several million of these used shipping containers are abandoned due to the cost of sending them back to where they came from. 

So what can we do with them now? In the past few years, there has been a movement of homeowners choosing to convert discarded freight containers into their very own “Tiny Home.” From that starting point, shipping containers have pivoted easily into other residential, commercial, and industrial industries.

You may have even noticed them redeployed in a wide variety of mobile and permanent solutions, such as:

  • trade show exhibits
  • retail stores
  • experiential marketing activations
  • hospitality suites
  • pop-up and permanent restaurants
  • VIP lounges
  • product displays
  • office spaces

There is a multitude of reasons to consider using a shipping container for your next experiential marketing activation. In my mind, though, there are three main reasons to consider using one.

Fabricating your exhibit, product display, or hospitality suite inside a portable container allows you to go to your customer instead of hoping your customers come to you. Plan a roadshow and travel to multiple large markets in a self-sustained way.


Shipping containers are built from high strength rust-resistant steel. They come preinstalled with mounting points for trucks, so shipping and installing them is easy.

Steel Space Concepts out of Montreal has made it even easier. They have eliminated the need for a forklift or crane to lower the shipping containers into place by developing both hydraulic (10′, 20′, and 40′ units) and electrical (SSLITE 8 and 16) lifting and levelling systems. Loading and unloading have become more cost-effective. The 8ft and 16ft Lite containers can even be pulled behind a pick-up truck or SUV.


Shipping containers are straightforward to modify and customize. The opportunities to personalize your shipping container are almost endless. You start with a steel box, and the rest is up to your imagination. You can create unique, stand-out experiences for your customers. Imagine taking your prospects in from a busy trade show floor or parking lot and immersing them in a private space to discover your product or service.

They are flexible and get your message out to a wide range of locations, allowing you to promote your brand to different categories of prospects in a variety of different ways. They are suitable for indoor and outdoor trade shows, events, and exhibitions. If you are a product-based supplier, it is easy to mount shelves to the walls or set up display cases, and your product moves to your next location with the display.


When comparing the cost of a traditional custom exhibit or building an XM marketing experience to a container activation cost, there are multiple factors to consider, such as installation, shipping, and re-usability for future events. If we believe an activation container to be the corporate, business world’s very own “Tiny Home,” then we would envision it finished to the last detail inside and out. Once the initial time and investment are put into the branding and product experience, your mobile experience is ready. Fold up the sides, load onto the trailer, and hit the road.

Some custom builds have several crates and weigh, on average, about 10,000 lbs. You would have to ship your exhibit with a common carrier and risk the chance of one crate going missing. When you attach your container to a truck, you know it is all arriving in one piece. If you buy one of the lite versions, you may even be able to tow the exhibit yourself.

The best part is once your container gets to the location and is dropped into place, the sides are opened up, and you are ready for business. You can save hours or even days (in some cases) of installation and dismantle time.

Immersing the consumer in your unique branded environment within your shipping container will create a positive interaction and memory of your brand that lasts forever.

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