Builders seek brand loyalty
May 13, 2007 - 9:00 pm
When you hear the name of a home builder, what comes to mind? Likely, part of your opinion has been influenced by branding and marketing campaigns.
Perceptions can make or break a deal, and marketing becomes increasingly important in Southern Nevada’s competitive housing market. However, there is not a blueprint on how to market homes, according to Melissa Warren, partner of Faiss Foley Warren Public Relations & Government Affairs, whose clients include developers.
“New marketing campaigns seem to be planned on an as-needed basis. I think that advertising has to reflect the market, it has to reflect the changing world. I don’t think there is a formula as to when or how marketing should be done,” Warren said.
“Unless you are going to totally re-branch yourself and start all over, most ad campaigns build on itself.”
Builders may take different approaches — advertisements, print materials, signage, events and Web sites. Although the methods may vary, branding is important in order to be competitive, according to Kathy Hilty, director of marketing for Pardee Homes.
“Branding is an opportunity to tell our story and to set us apart from other people in our industry. Buyers are extremely sophisticated and they are aware of the many brand names that they use every day,” Hilty said.
“It gives you an opportunity to tell consumers what we do well and why they should choose you, why they should come to us as experts in this particular industry.”
Pardee focuses on reputation
Some builders, including Pardee, decide to focus on ideals rather than concrete offerings in its branding.
Hilty said Pardee, which is active in Southern Nevada and California, has chosen to focus on its 55-year history in the Las Vegas market and its community involvement to help promote a positive reputation.
“What’s different for us is that it is not just marketing or advertising, it is what we do in the community to make us a brand that Las Vegas recognizes,” Hilty said. “…We try to talk about our legacy as often as we can and in as many ways as we can. We try to live our legacy. Saying that you are great is not enough in this type of market. You have to be great and you have to be a great community citizen. The difference is living your legacy instead of just advertising your product.”
Hilty cited charitable works and Pardee’s new Let’s Talk home-buyer program as examples.
“In addition to promoting our 55th anniversary, another campaign which is very important to us is the Lets Talk campaign. We’ve been in town for a long time and we’ve been here in the highs and lows of the market. We’re spending time to help our buyers figure out this marketplace and how to buy in this market. It is a confusing market for buyers right now and we are there to help them,” she said.
“Understanding the market that you are in is critical. You can’t advertise to different consumers with the same messages.”
However, she said some platforms are used in different cities such as its EnergySmart and LivingSmart programs, which focus on energy-efficient features.
Its newest campaign, Ready Homes, will launch this month and “talk about how we have homes of every type and design that are ready now, and not just with an eight-month build time,” appealing to buyers who are moving into the valley, Hilty said.
Lennar tackles national effort
In contrast, Miami, Fla.-based Lennar Homes decided to start anew when it launched a new look with advertisements, logo and updated Web site during a nationwide branding campaign.
The first phase of this began in eight Western markets, including Las Vegas, on May 1. The company’s new catchphrase — “Everything you want. Everything you need. That’s the logic of Lennar. ” — reflects the list of amenities inclusive with each purchase and replaces Lennar’s “Everything is included” former mantra.
“The ‘Everything is Included’ platform is a great platform and that really hasn’t changed a lot, but we have redefined it. When you buy a Lennar home, you receive basically a turnkey home with blinds in the windows, a full appliance package, right down to the garage door opener,” said Roger Seaholm, senior vice president of sales.
Seaholm explained that the company decided to incorporate this standardized approach after surveying customers.
Nationwide purchasing agreements with various manufacturers add to the company’s purchasing power and streamline the home-buying process, while at the same time limiting interior options. Its 30-plus Southern Nevada neighborhoods, as well as Lennar’s more than 800 other developments nationwide, have been divided into different tiers based on price points, each offering a different package of brand name products.
In its quest to simplify the home-buying process, Lennar has incorporated a live chat option on its Web site, lennar.com, where buyers and homeowners can electronically communicate with consultants.
Lennar’s decision to undertake a nationwide, instead of a local, marketing effort is influenced by the company’s acquisitions of other builders and projects over the years. The campaign will effectively group under the Lennar name its varied products, some of which had maintained separate marketing efforts after Lennar’s acquisition. Vicki Zoot, director of marketing, explained that in Southern Nevada, Lennar had operated under US Home and Greystone names in the past.
“Our marketing had varied in different markets. We wanted to send out a simple branding message,” Seaholm said.
“Before, every market had its own marketing division and head of sales. Before, you could go to different markets and they were not consistent. We decided that was not what we wanted. … Our message is now simple and elegant.”
Summerlin message evolves
Like other developers of master-planned communities, The Howard Hughes Corp. has faced the challenge of incorporating myriad neighborhoods in its branding of the Summerlin development.
Warren, who has worked with the community since 1990, said marketing methods and messages have changed over the years as the market has changed.
Its initial marketing efforts focused on overcoming the misperception of being age-qualified, a result of Del Webb Corp.’s promotion of the age-qualified Sun City Summerlin, a small portion of the total development.
“Del Webb started promoting and advertising Sun City Summerlin long before the family oriented communities of Summerlin were marketed. They did such a good job that people assumed that everything associated with Summerlin was age-restricted. The Howard Hughes Corp. had the challenge of marketing Summerlin as a family community,” Warren said.
To help change the misperception, television advertisements detailing children’s opinions of moving to Summerlin were aired and numerous community events were organized.
“Branding is much more than advertising. It is also about the special events and activities that take place in a community or neighborhood. In Summerlin’s case, in the early years, we really focused on families. We created a whole roster of seasonal family events and those really helped create a perception of Summerlin as a great place for families,” Warren said.
“In the beginning, they were public events and were as much marketing-oriented to drive traffic to the community as it was doing something special for the families who moved there. It was validation for the buyers.
“The Summerlin Council has taken over a lot of the events that once upon a time began as marketing events. We still have a few large-scale marketing events where we brand ourselves as a vibrant place like the Summerlin Art Festival and an Earth Day festival, but it is few in between because we have already created that perception,” Warren said.
“The Summerlin Patriotic Parade is an interesting event because that started out as a residents-only event and that has grown into a large-scale community event that is the valley’s biggest Fourth of July parade. It reinforces that Summerlin is a good place for families, it’s multigenerational.”
Branding goals have also changed.
“In recent years, the Summerlin brand has expanded. We are still a family community, but we are also multigenerational, meaning that we have a lot of seniors and retirees, and I’m not talking just about Sun City Summerlin.
The brand has expanded to include singles and couples with no children because that is a growing population,” she said.
As with other builders, a new advertising campaign will be launched in time for summer.
“It’s an evolution of some previous ad campaigns. It’s still very much tied into home and Summerlin as a home, but it has a very modern, progressive look to it,” Warren said. “Summerlin has a great brand and has a ton of equity in their brand. The new ad campaign is a new generation of Summerlin, a new evolution of Summerlin.”