On November 11, 2009, an initial meeting was held between The Idea Boutique team and CEO and chairman Frank Burge and president Ronny Clay, formerly of Destin First Bank. They had sold that venture and, after a five-year hiatus, they were ready to open a new local banking corporation in Northwest Florida. Naming and branding the new business was the predominant topic of the meeting. The official name would be presented to the board, and upon approval, a branding and marketing initiative would commence with The Idea Boutique offering a preliminary marketing plan.
Over the next few weeks, the bank’s board of directors approved the name First Florida Bank. The Idea Boutique began logo treatments and creative branding exercises, secured the trademark for First Florida Bank, and purchased the domain names www.firstflbank.net and www.firstflbank.com to ensure the bank’s new website would have top-of-mind brand recognition and SEO optimization. We knew it was also essential to present the new name on temporary signage at the bank’s locations as soon as possible. Our team presented a strategic plan complete with a media schedule, budget, and creative treatments to the board on December 17 of that year.
During this meeting, the vision and the philosophy of First Florida Bank were discussed at length and included an impromptu charette that we cataloged as “mission statements meet vision statements” for First Florida Bank. The branding message began to take shape from those meeting notes, as the best branding messages are often the ones that come about organically arrived and not contrived ones. These statements show what First Florida Bank stands for—they are copy points and a platform for how the bank differentiates itself from competitors:
First Florida Bank is:
The Idea Boutique knew the most critical thing in the first few months of First Florida Bank’s inceptions was to communicate the messaging that the new bank was not affiliated with Destin First Bank and that this new business was under the ownership of people who are well-respected in the community and the banking community at large. This roll-out began with the new year in January of 2010. From 2009 until 2012, our team worked closely with the board and leadership of First Florida Bank to continue its mission and brand growth.
The following marketing initiatives were created by The Idea Boutique to communicate First Florida Bank’s message to the community and to help grow its business, client base, and brand equity:
Since the launch of its rebranding in early 2010, First Florida Bank has thrived as a leader in the Northwest Florida banking community. Its consumer base has grown exponentially, and the brand now commands seven locations operating throughout the counties of Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, and Santa Rosa. First Florida Bank is a trusted community brand handling personal banking, business banking, residential lending, wealth management, credit cards, and other banking tools.
In July of 2019, publicly traded company First Bancshares, Inc. entered an agreement to acquire First Florida Bank for approximately $85 million. (Source: The First Bancshares, Inc. press release deployed July 22, 2019) This merger and partnership between Frank Burge, the board and shareholders of First Florida Bank, and the board of First Bancshares is expected to be completed in late 2019. The combined company is estimated to be worth $4 billion in total assets, $3.2 billion in total deposits, and $2.6 billion in total loans. Its locations will spread to 78 sites throughout Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
M. Ray “Hoppy” Cole, President & Chief Executive Officer of First Bancshares and The First, commented, “We are excited about our merger with First Florida Bancorp announced today. First Florida is a well‐respected, premier financial institution and we are thrilled to be joining forces with Frank Burge and his team. Our banks share a common goal of continued growth by delivering exceptional service to our clients and providing superior returns for our shareholders. Our partnership with First Florida will substantially improve our market share in Florida and further our strategic vision of building a high performing regional community bank.”