Ruth Papazian, the architect of a new branding campaign for Evergreen Funds, would argue that image is not everything.
In creating several ads for the Charlotte, N.C.-based firm's first-ever television commercials, Papazian, senior vice president and director of marketing for Evergreen, said that if Evergreen runs a 45-second "image" spot, or one that emphasizes style over substance, there has to be a 15-second performance spot accompanying it.
"You will never see them running separately," she said. "The idea is that you cannot run an image campaign without the ability to back it up." There are quite a few companies that do not mention performance in their ads, she said.
Evergreen's first television ads were introduced in February. There are six commercials, four on performance and two image ads. The company, which has $58 billion in assets under management, declined to disclose how much it is spending on the television advertising.
One of the commercials, called "Talking Heads," has a montage of actors portraying generic financial experts - talking heads - speaking on tv, commenting about the markets. The montage runs to the tune of "Jive Talking" by the Bee Gees. The voice-over says, "Everyone's got an opinion. Not everyone's got 65 years of experience to back it up."
The other commercial is called "Freak Out" and also has a montage of a stock ticker and newspaper headlines such as, "Dow Up," "Index Slides," and other good and bad market news. Faces of people looking at the ticker and the headlines display various emotional responses - from elation to dismay. The montage is set to the music of "Le Freak" by Chic. The voice-over says, "With a market this uncertain, you might consider a company with 65 years of experience and relax and maybe go dancing."
Fifteen-second performance spots, which are brought up to date each quarter, end each commercial.
The commercials reflect "the essence of who we are - an old, established fund company - but our ads are not old," said Papazian. "We are talking to very lively, active folk." But the intention was not to target younger investors.
"We've tried hard not to niche ourselves into any one group," Papazian said.
Papazian has worked in the mutual fund industry for 20 years. She started in advertising agencies that had mutual funds and financial services firms as clients. More recently, she has developed marketing and collateral materials working for Colonial Funds of Boston and then as a consultant to Fidelity Investments of Boston. Just prior to coming to Evergreen in late 1997, she was vice president of marketing for Wells Fargo's investment services.
Also as part of Evergreen's branding campaign which Papazian initiated in January 1998, the company introduced, in March of this year, a redesigned logo and new tagline, "First Family of Mutual Funds." The name Evergreen in the logo was enlarged, the phrase, since 1932' was added below the fund group's name and the Evergreen tree, that has been part of the company's logo since the company's founding in 1932, was reduced in size, Papazian said.
The Evergreen tree was made smaller "to downplay the tree imagery and the organic imagery and really focus on the name of our funds," Papazian said. "Evergreen Funds is what you really notice and the tree is a rather small icon, kind of a link to our past."
Evergreen calls itself the first fund "family" because it was the first fund group to allow exchanges between funds managed by common portfolio managers with different investment objectives, said Papazian.
"From a brand perspective...if you have a claim to be first at anything, it's a very strong claim," she said. "That's why adding the tagline to our advertising was important to us."
"We had to break through the crowd, which is a reason we went on TV this year," Papazian said. "The marketplace is extremely crowded, there are many fund consolidations going on, fund complexes engaging in mergers and acquisitions, and it was really a time to put our stakes to the ground and really commit to building a brand image for Evergreen this year.
"We have very aggressive goals of being one of the top 10 mutual fund companies and you really need your brand to carry you there," she said.
Evergreen felt that it needed to engage in the branding effort in order to pull away from the competition, said Papazian.
"Quite honestly, it's really a takeaway market right now," she said. "The industry has really leveled off in terms of market share. And, in order to really play in this field, you need to have a brand presence. You need to have consumer and broker awareness of your fund complex and obviously have the range which we do and performance which we do of the fund company behind you in order to grab that business."
So far this year, 19 fund companies have run television ads, said Cathlin Tully of Competitrack of New York, a firm that tracks mutual fund advertising.