Diamond lessons from the Access merger

We saw it coming, and that was the best part of it.

Access Bank has finally completed their absorption of Diamond Bank in what they have successfully presented as a partnership. The initial announcement was made in December 2018 and the management of communication and PR between then and now is worth understudying for the good, as well as the part that could have been improved.

While the actual event is a takeover, with a merger being the better word for the press, the perception driven was that of a collaboration. No two banks ever wake up and decide to go through the complex process of merging with another, with all things being equal. Certainly, there were failures to meet certain goals and an inability to sustain independence, as in every merger, but the implications on the customer side of things could be devastating if they allowed everyone to pick up the narratives with their individual—and then peer—assumptions of failure and uncertainty within the ‘failing bank’, which brings us to what they did so well.

They shed light on the good

Many of the boardroom meetings would have ended in heated arguments and there would have been some resentment across the different leadership teams as each side sought to maximize its part of the deal, but there was always an advantage to the merger; a bigger capacity, combined resources, more funds and they chose to weave the narrative around these. Two heads are better than one, they said. From adverts to press releases, to the co-sponsorship of Access’ annual Lagos marathon as well as a side-by-side use of both logos in their communications, they sold the customers of both banks, especially the ‘takeover-ee’, a positive story of partnership for greater things. Masterclass.

It’s always about the story told, and this is not even about deception. It’s half full and also half-empty. You choose to scream the half-fullness of it till the heavens can hear. Given that there are always different sides to look at every situation, brands can influence public perception by focusing on the best part of bad situations and establishing narratives from this point of view.

One identity for two

Perhaps the most anticipated part of the build-up was what the identity would be, moving on, given that both banks had distinctive identities loved by their customers and beyond. The “together” story was so well sold that a lot of people almost questioned if the name would remain “Access” or it would be a combined name as well.

The new logo of the new Access Bank was unveiled to a reception of mixed feelings. In an evident determination to reflect the ‘d’ of the absorbed Diamond Bank, it appears like it could do a lot with some more minimalist thinking. However, I personally think that it looks good and with a good use of motion graphical illustration in their ads, the concurrent chevrons could evolve into some sort of thumb-print that unlocks an entry barrier—access! (Royalties welcome if they go ahead with this idea).

Forcing it?

Perhaps the part where this portrayal of “partnership” went too far was in the retail application and touchpoints. The green colour of Diamond bank was introduced as a major player in the signage in what easily feels off and forced. Everything from Day 1 has made it easier for Diamond Bank customers to adjust with the change but they had to insist on this one visually imbalanced combination in what leads to another lesson brands should watch out for. The intention can be great but the execution can blindly follow that drive and go wrong, without the best advice on implications. With the presence of a seasoned visual artist or a branding agency with the experience and competencies, this one decision could have been saved.

Care to share more golden lessons—I mean diamond lessons—you picked from this entire process? I will love to read your mail at

Victor Fatanmi is Senior Partner at FourthCanvas, a brand-centric design and marketing agency credited with brand communication successes in Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal.

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