Photo credit: <a href="http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=413">Jeroen van Oostrom</a>

The Vanguard Group, Malvern, Pa., now tops the field of providers of exchange-traded funds in favorable impressions among financial advisors, according to new research.

Cogent Research, Cambridge, Mass., published this finding in a summary of results from the Cogent Research Advisor Brandscape 2012 report. The annual survey polls more than 1,700 financial advisors across all channels with at least $5 million in assets under management.

The advisors included in Cogent’s study view Vanguard very favorably, more positively than any other ETF provider. While still the dominant market share leader, iShares now ranks fourth in favorability among current brand users, behind Vanguard,

WisdomTree, StateStreet/SPDR and First Trust.

“Favorable impression is a key component of brand equity, and is vital to a firm’s potential for future consideration and growth,” says Tony Ferreira, Managing Director at Cogent

Research. “Vanguard’s strong impression scores correlates well with the firm’s recent sales success, and our results indicate that the firm is well positioned for future growth.” Cogent measures favorable impression on an 11-point scale, where zero is “not at all favorable” and 10 is “extremely favorable.” Among the 13 ETF providers included in this year’s survey, the “top 3 box” (8, 9, or 10), impression scores ranged from a low of 12% to a high of 60%.

Rounding out the top five ETF providers in terms of overall favorability are State Street/SPDR, PIMCO, and WisdomTree.

In addition to leading the market in favorable impression, Vanguard achieves top ratings in

association with several brand imagery attributes that serve to solidify a firm’s position in the marketplace. Specifically, Vanguard achieves top marks across advisors in all channels in association with “financial stability,” “good value for the money,” “demonstrates integrity and

honesty,” “fee transparency,” and “a brand clients know and trust.”

Meanwhile, iShares still owns the key categories of “leader in the ETF industry” and “offers products with consistent liquidity,” although the gap with rivals is decreasing as other providers have seen improving perceptions in these areas.