To understand why they work so well, you have to get literal for a moment:
Hotwire = “to steal a car”
Pandora = “unleashed plagues, diseases & all the evils of mankind”
These types of meanings will get a name dismissed ASAP by a naming committee – a committee that would have been wrong to dismiss these names, obviously.
Consumers don’t attribute these literal, negative qualities to the companies who use Hotwire & Pandora as their company names (you don’t, do you?). But naming committees will almost always believe they will. It’s essential to understand that your target audience does not interpret names literally – if they did names like Slack, Virgin, Pandora, Hotwire, Yahoo, Google, Airport, Gap, et al would be D.O.A.
In each case the name is a metaphor for something about the company. Hotwiring a car is a “hack”, Hotwire positions the site as a travel hack – a way around high prices. Pandora Radio is a marketplace, positioned metaphorically as a “box full of intrigue”.
When juxtaposed in line with the company’s positioning, the names simply become interesting – they have personality. They demonstrate confidence and uniqueness. Metaphorically re-purposing the negative is what makes them so positive.
The names are provocative, differentiating and memorable.
From a business perspective, these names are a pure positive, derived from a literal negative. It’s called “The Principle of Negativity”.
Don’t fear the Negative – well executed, it’s a Positive.
It’s an opportunity to define how your audience thinks about you. Take it. And remember – Naming & Positioning is a competitive sport, so don’t skip this vital step