Massachusetts Financial Services, the nation's oldest mutual fund company, is planning a $10 million television and print advertising campaign to begin in September.
Founded in 1924, the Boston-based company has never advertised on television. Now, it wants to boost its brand image to compete.
"The fact that we're the oldest mutual fund company in the country and yet many people don't know us is really a shame," said Jerry Potts, a senior vice president and director of marketing.
Massachusetts Financial wants to build its image among consumers, making sales easier for the banks, brokers, and financial planners that sell its funds. The company also is trying to capitalize on the growing number of investors who choose funds on their own to invest in 401(k) retirement plans.
According to the latest data at the Investment Company Institute, mutual funds accounted for 31% of 401(k) plan investments in 1994, up from 21% in 1993.
Fund performance and the company's history are prime focuses of the commercials. More than 100 financial advisers said in a company survey that they were most likely to respond to these themes, said John Reilly, a company spokesman.
But if the recent stock market correction continues into the fall, "their timing might be a little poor, because MFS has a lot of domestic equity funds, " said Kevin Kresnicka, mutual fund analyst at Morningstar Inc.
Massachusetts Financial, which manages $32.9 billion in fund assets, has been busy with other campaigns. The company this week mailed out marketing literature to 96,000 investment representatives. Massachusetts Financial is calling the marketing push Heritage Planning.
The materials were designed to help investment representatives target a marketing segment that has come to be known by financial advisers as the "sandwich generation." That market group consists of investors in their 50s and 60s who have children and parents who count on them for financial help.
Over the next 25 years, 47 million people will enter this market segment, Mr. Potts said.
The materials will cover topics such as long-term care insurance, choosing a lawyer to set up a will, and various types of trusts a customer could set up for children.
"A lot of marketing in our business has been geared toward building wealth, but not too much helps people preserve wealth," said Mr. Potts.
As part of this effort, Massachusetts Financial is exploring a push into bank trust departments, said Lisa M. Jones, senior vice president and director of the financial institutions division.
"Trust departments are another area in the bank that we can get some mileage out of," she said.
Ms. Jones said Massachusetts Financial is offering support services to top producers in trust departments at a "handful of banks," but she offered no details.
Massachusetts Financial is one of more than two dozen fund companies vying for position in the bank marketplace. But the company has always held a place in the second-tier, and competition is getting tougher as banks whittle their lists of fund providers.
Ms. Jones said sales are up 67% year to date, over the same period last year. But consolidation in the banking industry "gives you tremendous anxiety," she said.