Ad Agency Think Webstore in Ridgeland, Mississippi is celebrating the success of a remarkable acquisition.
In September of 2011, M&F Bank (FMFC), headquartered in Kosciusco, Mississippi with 41 branches across Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, and Florida, was in a challenging position. M&F bank had acquired its share of non-performing assets (NPAs) from the real estate crisis in 2009, and although progress had been made, there was still a lot of work to do to get the NPA ratio down. The bank was not effectively communicating their true value to customers, and consumer confidence had fallen. The stock price was depressed at around $3/share, and they were facing layoffs and branch closings. In spite of these factors, the leadership team recognized great potential for success. The core commitment to service was strong and employee loyalty had not faltered. The leadership team wanted to create a message and culture of aggressive growth in order to expand their business.
M&F Bank began a strong turnaround beginning in October of 2011. To help revitalize their brand and message to target customers, M&F brought Mississippi advertising agency and consulting firm Think Webstore on board to handle rebranding, reconnect with their target customers, and promote services with a focus on lending. While the marketing team was working on image and customer communication, other team members got to work whittling down the NPAs.
When Think Webstore took over the M&F Bank marketing and advertising account in October of 2011, they immediately got to work on several fronts including Branding, Marketing, Advertising, Public Relations, and Organizational Communications.
Five of the challenge goals out of the gate were:
- To foster a spirit of growth and prosperity within the organization amidst layoffs and branch closings.
- To raise the visibility of truly exceptional employees and service provided by the bank branches.
- To increase revenue from bank products including commercial loans, personal loans, and auto loans.
- To make the public aware that the bank not only had money to loan, but also was eager to make loans, despite the public perception that banks were not lending.
- To add key products or services that supported challenges 1 through 4.
Executing a Plan for Turnaround
It is always a major challenge to foster a spirit of growth in the face of layoffs, even while the direction is true.
With new messaging and visible commitment in place, M&F was able to leverage their most valuable asset, their employees and customer service culture. New advertising reintroduced the M&F brand and promises to their consumers and marketplace. Once customers entered the branches, the employees delivered.
Working together, Think and M&F crafted the “30 Minute No Hassle Loan Consultation” to make loans accessible and friendly, and then something exceptional occurred. Not only was the team able to meet sales goals that had been a challenge in periods past, reach goals were exceeded in loan categories. M&F Bank was experiencing a long awaited boost and was beginning to once again thrive, even as their competition struggled.
In 2012 the bank was able to meet and exceed reach goals in lending. By 2013, just over 12 months later, the team had managed to reduce NPAs by approximately 75%. On February 6, 2013, M&F stock was up to $8.45.
Renasant Bank, a Mississippi based bank with $4.4 billion in assets, compared to M&F Banks $1.6 billion in assets, approached them and had a unique proposition — an opportunity to merge to build an even stronger Mississippi bank. Renasant Bank already had a considerable presence in Mississippi, but not in the Madison County and Rankin County areas, where M&F Bank’s presence was strong. A generous deal was struck.
On February 7, 2013, as reported in a previous press release, the signing of a definitive merger agreement was announced jointly by M&F Bank and Renasant Bank involving a stock transaction then valued at $119 million. In June, after the merger was approved by over 99 percent of eligible shares from both companies, Renasant Corporation and First M&F Corporation, the stock transaction was valued at over $142 million. The merger/acquisition later received regulatory approval. The newly combined Renasant Bank has locations in Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia, and an estimated $5.8 billion in assets.
On Tuesday September 3, 2013, M&F Bank branches officially reopened as Renasant Bank.
A 16 Month Marketing Turn-around to Success
M&F Bank’s ad agency, Think Webstore, had a demonstrable victory in marketing, advertising, strategy, and public relations for M&F Bank. In 16 months they had delivered more than past agencies had delivered in more than twice as much time. Even more relevant, the work performed.
After layoffs and branch closings, delivery events were intentionally coordinated and tiered to demonstrate promises of growth and investment within the bank. Delivery events included brand updates, new direct messages to customers, branch makeovers, print articles, new television and print advertising, and invitations for experts to appear publicly on radio and television. At a time when most companies would be trying to handle troubled employee morale as employees anticipated the next round of layoffs, M&F Bank was demonstrating its commitment to growth and reaping the rewards of revitalized employees and customers who were watching change happen.
By the beginning of the tenth month, M&F Bank’s percentage growth outperformed all publicly targeted competitors but one, and had done so on a relatively smaller budget in a short timeframe. By month twelve they had overcome the final closest competitor in percentage growth. By February 6, 2013, the day before the definitive merger agreement announcement, M&F stock price had risen from $3.07 on October 3, 2011 to $8.45, a 175.2% percentage growth in just 16 months. After the merger announcement, the stock price rose to over $18/share.
This merger is big news in the the state and the region. “The word in the regional banker circles is that M&F Bank went on a ‘Marketing Blitz’ and made a great deal. We were that marketing blitz!” says Think Webstore Owner and President Bryan Carter. “While we dearly miss our leadership team with M&F, we look forward to developing the next leadership team with a bank that wants to aggressively engage and grow their market.”