Uncertainty, volatility, and uneasiness intensify. And, as they do, an array of mixed signals on what may come next has begun to move many residential developers and builders into a defensive posture on land and investment, a rare few players consider now the moment to double-down and pounce. Now.
Clayton Homes is one of the rare few--all of whom have established product, land strategy, operational scale and process, and marketing focus on the lower rungs of new-homes and communities' price ladder.
If Spring 2019 selling season manages to regain any of its lost momentum--never mind the fact that year-on-year comparisons to Spring 2018's sales pace are almost bound to show a deflating contrast in absorptions--it's entry-level attainability or bust. Now, or maybe never.
And now, as market-rate players consider removing financial and personal risk from their strategies, Clayton is striking hard, fast, and with a broad swath of impact, with a marketing, advertising, branding, and sales push aimed to both fuel desire and remove friction from the path of would-be home buyers on both ends of demographics barbell-shaped spectrum, Millennials and Baby Boomers.
One thing the new national marketing campaign does is to persuasively answer a question that has been hovering over the home building landscape since the re-emergence of off-site factory construction, fabrication, and assembly as an operational bulwark--at least in theory. The question is, can it be compelling to consumers in quality, design, and price, and profitable to builders?
This campaign--backed by Clayton Homes parent Berkshire Hathaway--is a big investment in "yes it can."
Having spent the past five years or so transforming itself into a fully hybridized off-site-on-site builder, as well as having gotten exposure to deep, iterative land positions, retooled its enormous national manufacturing infrastructure, fought on Capitol Hill and among housing finance agencies for newly evolved mortgage finance programs that fairly value HUD code homes, and transformed its team-member culture to fully engage and participate in a world-class customer experience, Clayton is about to unleash a full-on blitz in its effort to become America's No. 1 home builder.
Not surprisingly, while Clayton's relentless point of focus is consumer centric--mostly consumers who've been left behind during a protracted, mostly up-market, discretionary, single-family for-sale recovery that began after the Great Recession and has begun to show signs of losing traction during the past six months or so--its own associates figure prominently the firm's customer experience point of emphasis.
"This is a great moment in time, especially for what's been called the manufactured housing industry," says Kevin Clayton, CEO of Clayton Homes. "Just as we've become more effective at helping to create and leverage more modern, innovative building practices, and produce more cutting edge designs, with steep pitched roofs, permanent foundations, porches, garages, and other features, we've got an opportunity to help more people with homeownership."
Kevin Clayton and his team today kick-off a nationwide television advertising campaign that will tout not just price, but quality, design-appeal, and a great customer experience to hit potential customers not just with motivation but inspiration as well.
The campaign, shot on a sound stage in Prague, focuses on their care, passion, precision, and focus on making quality to ensure a world-class customer experience.
"We're continuing a narrative both meant to remove long-held stigmas and expectations of poor quality that date back to earlier eras of manufactured home construction among Baby Boom-age potential buyers, and to, simultaneously draw in younger adult buyers with style, a cool-factor, and the off-site construction story," says Dave Schiff, a principal and chief creative officer at Clayton's marketing agency Made. "This campaign is about appealing to those buyer's primal desire to covet not only homeownership but this home."
CEO Clayton mentions that a new affordable housing finance initiative introduced at the end of 2018 by Fannie Mae, the MH Advantage program, qualifies buyers of homes produced offsite in factories the for financing, appraisals, and valuations on-par with stick-built homes, which now opens the door to homeownership for more potential buyers.
"In many markets, the only way to get an affordably-priced new home is in a masterplanned community, but the fact is, there are many, many rural areas not anywhere near such commiunities, and, before now, there was no way for a potential customer to be able to take advantage of operational and purchasing scale for construction they could afford," says Clayton. "As of this week, we'll be producing these homes--featured in the new ad campaign--in 14 of our 43 facilities nationwide, and we'll be able to deliver to just about anywhere in the country from them."
Here's the press statement, due out today, from Clayton Homes on the new ad campaign:
MARYVILLE, Tenn., Feb 11, 2019 — Clayton, one of the largest home builders in the nation, is pleased to announce the release of its newest television advertising campaign which takes aim at showcasing the modern prefab home and educating the public about the benefits of off-site construction. With the average price of a new site-built home with land in 2018 nearing $400,000 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, prefab homes offer an attainable solution starting under $200,000 in most markets plus cost of land.
Called “Prefabulous”, the campaign is part of Clayton’s mission to elevate the manufactured housing industry and challenge the outdated myths that create misconceptions around this innovative, efficient construction method. The commercial takes the viewer inside the set of a home building facility and follows a family through a beautiful Clayton Built® home as it’s being constructed, highlighting high-end features and modern design.
“Homes built off-site offer higher quality, more value and a smart solution to the affordable housing crisis in America,” said Kevin Clayton, CEO of Clayton. “This campaign was created to help more families realize they can attain a beautiful, quality home without sacrificing modern amenities. Off-site construction can make the dream of homeownership a reality by leveraging innovative building practices, automation and bulk purchasing power.”
Every Clayton Built® home is built inside an ISO 14001 certified facility, away from the damage and delays that can be caused by rain and seasonal weather. Construction cost savings are achieved by purchasing building material and name-brand appliances in bulk and utilizing economies of scale. Off-site building efficiencies, production line like assembly and material recycling also aid in reducing the waste and cost of construction.
Off-site construction is uniquely positioned to provide access to quality housing at a variety of income levels. Available prefab home features:
- Permanent foundation with porch
- Open floor plan concept
- Upgraded all-wood cabinets and farmhouse sink
- ecobee3 lite smart thermostat and energy efficient appliances
- Wide plank flooring and drywall interior
“Clayton is uniquely positioned to bridge the affordability gap using both on-site and off-site home construction methods,” said Clayton. “Our goal as a company and industry is to democratize luxury and provide attainable homeownership for all families.”
Will marketing muscle bring home Clayton's message, convince long-time manufactured home naysayers that today's Clayton homes promise and deliver an entirely different, higher quality level experience to go along with the attractive sticker price?
"As an industry, we hired a research firm to help us investigate how--and whether--we could play a key role to help solve the affordable housing crisis," says Kevin Clayton. "When researchers gave people a typical picture of a manufactured home, only 9% said they wanted one. But when we showed them images of this kind of home we're producing now, t hat 9% number went up to 46% wanted one. That was pretty strong evidence for us we're on the right track."