HUBweek: Best of The Fest

The entrance to City Hall Plaza

The entrance to City Hall Plaza

HUBweek Boston has come and gone and I had the pleasure of checking out the outside gathering area called the HUB on City Hall Plaza.  My goal was to investigate the client activations and report back on how brands maximized their on-site space. Founded in December 2014 by The Boston Globe, Harvard University, MIT, and Massachusetts General Hospital, HUBweek is a first-of-its-kind civic collaboration and weeklong festival that brings together the most creative and inventive minds making an impact in art, science, and technology.

Because programming is spread throughout the City, the HUB, one of the biggest additions last year, was expanded in 2018.  From a sponsorship standpoint, the HUB creates a gathering area and has a mix of programming, live demonstrations, and client activations to draw a crowd.  This idea alone is a great example of an event being sensitive to sponsorships. If you create a choke point like the HUB, you drive traffic to one area allowing clients to display their message or capture their audience.

HUBweek provides shipping containers and/or space in the new “Hall of the Future” tent to their sponsors to activate out of.  As you will see, some brands used multiple containers, activating inside, out, and a mix of both. This container look makes the HUB unique and eliminates the “tent city” found at every other festival.  Also, note that HUBweek requires sponsors and partners to align their activation to match the content of the festival. There are no sampling clients or brands that don’t have a tech, art or science message.

Here is what I am looking for in the perfect activation; Does the activation attract me, and can I identify the brand from afar? When I enter the space, can I get a sense of what I am about to learn?  Are the BA’s approachable, friendly and able to explain their brand and experience? Is the message clear, activation fun and the takeaway of value? Knowing what I am judging on, here are my top 3 activations at HUBweek 2018.

#3 – Milliporesigma’s Curiosity Cube

From afar Milliporesigma used bright colors and great signage to attract an audience.  Their activation in the Cube was very interactive and the BA’s were educated on their messaging.  They used VR, robotics, and games to simplify the content for someone like me. They also used one entrance and one exit strategy that guaranteed lead generation.

Inside the Milliporesigma’s Curiosity Cube

Inside the Milliporesigma’s Curiosity Cube

#2 – Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

BCBS from afar was attractive with great branding, stunning signage and trussed LED screens to educate you before the activation.  They used two canisters in a creative way by facing the open space, separated with an elevated walking platform. Like most other activations they used virtual reality to deliver their message and brought in Design Museum Boston to help demonstrate new technology in prosthetics.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts two container set up

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts two container set up

#1 – The Toyota Mirai Experience

Toyota used their space to highlight the new Prius hydrogen fuel cell technology.  From afar, you are attracted to the activation by the silver car on top of the container.  When I approached the activation there are two interactions, on one cap end there is a lead generation lounge with soft seating and the other was an augmented reality “show and tell”.  On the other two sides, there was clear signage to soft sell their message including a glass case display of the hydrogen fuel cells and engine. Overall this activation stole the show.

The Toyota Mirai lead generation lounge

Other brands that peaked my interest were Bank of America, iRobot, and Osram located in the Hall of the Future tent.  There is no surprise that the winning activations are fueled by established brands that have resources to maximize their space.  You don’t have to be a big brand or have a big budget to create a great activation, you just have to put a lot of thought and effort into the interaction and message delivery.

That’s all I got this time around, I hope that brands can pick-up a few tips on using their space at festivals, conferences, and events better by following what I believe are the important aspects of the perfect activation.