What’s in a name?

A key challenge at this early stage in our project development is how we can shape our ideas for the digital outreach portal into an attractive ‘brand’ that encapsulates our aim of fostering intellectual enquiry and appeals for the 11-18 year old demographic. This group is notoriously fickle and difficult to reach – and for the project to be a success we have to get it right!

Before we come up with campaigns and strategies to make sure potential users know about our portal, we definitely need to sort out our name. Internally (and here) we’re calling this the ‘digital outreach project’ and our output a ‘hub’ or ‘portal’. We know this isn’t very enticing.

As with naming any company, product or project – especially in the digital age – we are looking for a name that is memorable, meaningful and striking. We want to avoid confusion with similar enterprises and avoid any undesirable connotations. It also ideally needs to have an easy phonetic spelling so it can be transcribed by ear. And, of course, it must be the starting point for a strong brand identity that works well across the digital space. No pressure.

We’ve been coming up with potential names for 5 weeks now. Many (most) have been terrible and at times it has felt like we’ve exhausted every potential avenue – from puns to acronyms. Our shortlist contains names which we hope capture the essence of what we want to achieve – but there is variety too. Some draw on the University’s strong reputation for quality learning, while others nod more obliquely to our geographic and institutional home.

One of our aims is to be user-driven. So, to ensure we make the right choice for 11-18 year olds, we have to test the our shortlisted names with potential users. We’re already seeking input through an online survey and through face-to-face research groups. Some surprising connotations have already surfaced; one name is a vampire child in an American horror TV series!

The jury is still out – but it won’t be long before we’ll be something catchier than ‘the digital outreach project’


About Alex Pryce

I manage Communications and Engagement for the digital outreach portal project. I am based in the Widening Access and Participation team at the University of Oxford.

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