The one-off sample is obviously not a rigorous test, but it is an interesting snapshot of the performance of these funds. Bruce Lavine, President of WisdomTree, said that he was very pleased that all of his dividend-weighted indexes beat their benchmarks during the market downturn, with one exception: the DIEFA (international) fund trailed the MSCI EAFE index because it is underweight Japan. Generally, however, it's easy to see why dividend-weighted indexes would hold-up well in a market downturn.
(Interestingly, the PowerShares FTSE RAFI 1000 ETF (AMEX: PRF) actually trailed the S&P. PRF uses a composite of four fundamental factors to weight stocks: book value, earnings, sales and dividends. Somehow, that fundamental approach did not fair as well as the dividend approach this time.)
Overall, a few of the alternatively weighted equity funds performed well on a relative basis. But given the size of the market pullback, relative is the key worked. The Claymore/Sabrient Defender ETF, designed specifically to protect a portfolio against a market downturn, eked out a 41 basis point victory over the SPDR. That's something, but the fund still lost nearly five percent of its value in a little over a week. That's not exactly widows and orphans performance.
Ultimately, the truth is this: if you really want protection from a broad equity market turndown, don't buy equities; buy bonds, and maybe commodities. Different equity portfolios will perform differently, and there may be a relative performance benefit to one indexing approach versus another. Ultimately, however, if it really gets ugly, they're all going down with the ship.