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Should Branding be Mutual Funds' Top Priority for 2013?

Cerulli Associate's got the formula for asset managers to attract advisers. The elements? Strong client service, useful website and a recognizable brand.

According to the January issue of the U.S. Asset Management Edition of The Cerulli Edge, firms recognize the increasing importance of branding. Thirty-three percent of asset managers and readers surveyed by Boston-based Cerulli reported that their firm-wide focus for 2013 is building brand awareness. Financial advisers also pinpointed recognizable brand as the second-most important attribute among 11 impacting their choice of asset manager, behind only strong client service (51%).

But while branding has become increasingly important in the industry, Cerulli finds that resources for brand initiatives are not keeping pace with brand's perceived importance. Few firms possess the financial resources to afford advertising campaigns and long-term strategic planning required to communicate brand messages. In fact, almost half of asset managers have less than $500,000 at their disposal.

Cerulli's suggestion? Opt for unconventional, less expensive ways to promote brands. Cerulli finds that nearly two-thirds of asset managers expect to increase internet advertising, for example by targeting common news websites such as Yahoo Finance.