Mutual Fund Brands
The Battle for market share in the Mutual Fund Industry
The mutual fund industry markets itself by the investment philosophy. But that makes it unnecessary to observe the market by brand name.
To make matters worse, those branding mutual funds have tried to differentiate (brand) themselves by using independent rating systems like Morningstar. But this is akin to differentiating your brand of beer by saying that it is “liquid and sells for XYZ price.”.
That is pretty much all there is currently when branding mutual funds.
But during the huge run-up to mutual fund investing in the 1990’s, this model seemed effective.
Once, in branding mutual funds,there was growth
The market was running great guns. And everyone’s Morningstar rating showed double digit growth. Some investment experts were actually encouraging investors to compare Morningstar ratings. And others to “trade” funds on an annual basis.
As a result of branding mutual funds, all the brand value on was based on performance. The marketing is from the inside-out. And, it shows that the only choice for the investor is for portfolio diversification between growth and value. Or, maybe domestic and international.
Lipper is no better.
In each case, preference was going to be built around past performance. And, this led many funds to experience drift. However, the only reason to have a brand is to create margins or increase preference.
In a mutual fund study, it is clear to see that if your product or service is being purchased as a result of performance. There is no emotional brand and no connection with the customer.
No one noticed the dangerously rising tides during the exuberance of the 90s. And, eventually they found themselves without any brand equity.
The result of this lack of security and protection: the flight of investor assets.
Let’s look at the market from the outside-in (from the perspective of the investor). it is possible to see the market in very different terms. But mutual fund families must begin to position the family of funds and not the individual instruments.
In other words, the branding mutual funds should reflect the self-image of the segmented target market.
One possible way to see the market is from the perspective of investor lifestyle. This perspective shows great opportunity for fund families. Also, it is a means to define their brand in a way that resonates with investors.
It works in two ways.
First, it tells the target audience who the family of funds is for. And, secondly, it satisfies the need to “make it easy for me.”
No brand of mutual fund, with the possible exception of the socially conscious funds, has done this sort of brand segmentation.