Sign up today and take advantage of member-only content — the kind of timely, cutting edge industry insight that only Money Management Executive can deliver.
  • Exclusive Online Only Content
  • Free Daily Email News Alerts
  • Asset Management Blogs

John Hancock Ads Aim for Momentum


John Hancock Funds had a $9.2 billion record sales year in 2010. Now, the mutual fund complex wants more.

It's launching its first major advertising campaign that showcases its expertise in developing funds and managing investments, while still building on trust in its brand.

The campaign, "Who Knew," running in print, television and online, tells investors that while they may know John Hancock as a leading insurance, long-term care and annuity provider, it also has four- and five-star Morningstar-rated mutual funds.

John Hancock would not divulge its budget but said it is the most it has ever spent to promote specific products.

"Since Manulife's acquisition of John Hancock in 2004, substantial effort has been put into expanding and improving the depth, breadth and performance of our offerings through fund adoptions, acquisitions, and new product development of both our affiliated John Hancock Asset Management team and our unaffiliated strategic partners," said Keith F. Hartstein, president and CEO of John Hancock Funds.

"Our four- and five-star funds are a testament to the fact that we are delivering better performance results to shareholders, across a wider spectrum of offerings, than ever before," Hartstein said.

"Financial advisers and investors are taking notice of the improvements, as evidenced by last year's record sales year in both gross and net sales," he said.

The ad campaign is tied together by direct or implied questions and their answers, about facets of the funds investors likely did not know.

In one print spot, for instance, the first line reads, "Mutual funds from John Hancock? Who knew?," followed by, "Well, Morningstar knew."

In another print ad, the opening line is, "You probably don't think of mutual funds when you think of John Hancock." This is followed by: "See why you should." Another ad begins, "You trust your experience, your instincts and the numbers," followed by, "And let's not forget Morningstar."

The ads have the same instant messaging look as John Hancock's "Cursor" brand ad campaign that has been running for the past two years, with the print ads featuring typed comments appearing in what looks like chat dialog boxes. Likewise, in the television ads, the only sound is the tapping of a keyboard.

"'Who Knew' carries a brief and straightforward message: Let the performance and stars speak for the quality of our fund family," said Carey Foran Hoch, SVP and head of marketing for John Hancock Funds. "We want advisers and investors to become intrigued enough to visit out website for more detailed information about our funds, along with investment commentary, calculators and other financial planning tools."

This is the first time, Hoch said, that the firm "decided to dive deeper to promote our mutual fund business" and that the budget behind it is "the most we have spent to raise awareness and brand recognition for a specific product line."

Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, John Hancock's ad agency for the past 25 years, created the campaign.

Print ads are running through mid-June in Financial Planning (owned, like Money Management Executive, by SourceMedia), as well as Barron's, The Wall Street Journal, Registered Rep, Investment Advisor and PlanSponsor.

Television ads are running through June 25 on Bloomberg, CNBC and Fox Business. Online ads will appear in this timeframe on Bloomberg.com, LinkedIn.com, Morningstar.com, Nasdaq.com, NYTimes.com and TheStreet.com.

John Hancock is directing the campaign at the 650,000 registered reps in the United States and expects to achieve 215 million impressions, said Jim Bacharach, vice president of advertising for the firm. That would mean an average 330 impressions per financial adviser over the campaign's six-month run.

The reason behind building this brand awareness, Bacharach explained, is because while the firm's mutual funds achieved record sales last year, this was achieved through a small portion of the adviser community.

Thus, prior to launching the campaign, John Hancock surveyed 300 advisers and found while "there is incredibly high awareness of the John Hancock name," he said, "where the challenge has been for John Hancock Funds is those people who know John Hancock Funds and feel very positively and strongly about us. That is a relatively small portion of the adviser, and therefore the investor, communities."

Hancock funds "had a great year in 2010, but there are still a ton of advisers who don't know our story," Carey said.

Thus, this survey will serve as a benchmark for a second survey that John Hancock will conduct once the campaign is over to gauge how effective it is.

As to why John Hancock opted for an instant-messaging look, Bacharach said it mimics, complements and reinforces the "Cursor" branding campaign the firm launched two years ago. In addition, it emphasizes a two-way communication, prompts viewers and readers to continue reading, and, finally, ends with a call to action for the audience to visit the firm's website to learn more (jhfunds.com).

And so far, the campaign appears to be working very effectively, as web traffic has risen 10%, with most activity going to the list of the firm's 24 four- and five-star-rated funds and their performance,

Advisers are also viewing the website's video of Hartstein, in which he says: "John Hancock Funds is one of the fastest-growing families in the mutual fund industry, and we have more four- and five-star Morningstar-rated funds today than at any point in our history. If you're already investing in or recommending John Hancock Mutual Funds, thank you. If you're not, then we encourage you to explore this site and learn more about us."

As part of a second wave of the campaign that will kick off in early June, John Hancock Funds is planning to host webinars led by Morningstar experts that will feature its CIOs speaking on the economy and investment opportunities. "We are trying to build brand," Hoch said. The campaign is "a big investment, but the initial results have been incredibly positive."

As more advisers learn about John Hancock Funds, sales can only go higher, she said.