When the Irvine Co., based in Irvine, Calif., debuted its latest master planned community, Woodbury, more than 20 new product types from 20 builders were scheduled to roll out at the same time. There was so much to see that prospective buyers were bused from one sales center to another.

For Irvine-based Brookfield Homes Southland, one of the builders involved in the roll-out, the challenge in marketing its Treo community was how to stand out as it faced off against at least a dozen other attached products. The strategy was to carefully identify a very small segment of the market and then make everything—from the floor plans to the sales experience, right on down to the logo—resonate with those buyers.

“It had to find that voice in a crowded field,” says Tom Weston, CEO of Weston/ Mason Marketing, which designed the Treo logo, signage, and collateral material for Brookfield. “Everything had to be different from the competition, but it's differences by degree, not paradigm shifts. It's really about identifying a smaller niche of the market that demands more and is willing to pay for it.”

A lot of builders tried to fit a family-satisfying footprint in an attached space, Weston says, but “Brookfield went the other way and designed to singles and move-down couples.” With the target buyer firmly identified, everyone got to work finding ways to be irresistible to him or her.

DISTINCTIVE DETAILS: The Treo community (above) differentiated itself in a crowded market of attached homes with a high level of architectural detail, authenticity of design, and upscale finishes.
DISTINCTIVE DETAILS: The Treo community (above) differentiated itself in a crowded market of attached homes with a high level of architectural detail, authenticity of design, and upscale finishes.

With what he called a “very aggressive business plan,” Brookfield Homes Southland director of sales Rocky Tracy says he knew the company wasn't going to make it by talking about the parks and proximity to shopping and transportation. Instead, a great deal of attention was paid to the sales center environment. It ditched the topo table in favor of a lounge with coffee and biscotti and the site map on a wall-mounted magnetic chalk board, along with a relaxing outdoor garden.

Jeannine Clark at Pasadena, Calif.–based sales center design firm Mannigan Design thought about everything she hated about some sales centers and went in the opposite direction for Treo. “You sometimes inundate people with sales information the minute they walk in the door,” she says. “They become immune to that and turn off. Instead of being assaulted with sales material, we wanted them to feel good, so we kept it clean and simple. There are some walls with nothing on them—that's hard for some builders to do.”

Talking points were developed to present a consistent message, and Yolanda Landrum at ColorDesignArt merchandised the models to appeal to very specific buyers, such as single, male professionals who work at home and like high-tech toys.

The end result was not only a sell-out, but one that went faster and at a higher price-point than other attached product in Woodbury

Gold award categories: Suburban attached community of the year; best attached home plan priced over $400,000; best logo design, best landscape design for an attached community; Silver award categories: Best brochure for a community priced from $500,000 to $1 million; best sales office—suburban; best interior merchandising priced from $650,000 to $1 million; best signage program; Project: Treo, Woodbury master planned community, Irvine, Calif.; Builder: Brookfield Homes Southland, Irvine; Architect: Robert Hidey Architects, Irvine; Ad agency: Weston/Mason Marketing, Santa Monica, Calif.; Interior designer: ColorDesignArt, Pacific Palisades, Calif.; Sales office designer: Mannington Design, Pasadena, Calif.; Landscape designer: Collaborative West, San Clemente, Calif.; Sign designers: Weston/Mason Marketing, Santa Monica, and Outdoor Dimensions, Fullerton, Calif.

BOTTOM LINE Price range: Low $600,000s to mid-$700,000s

Number of units: 35

Date opened for sale: November 2004

Sales volume: 6 per month

Total traffic: 200 per week

Brochure cost per piece: $2.87

Merchandising: $30 per square foot

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Los Angeles, CA.