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.
Customers 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 erroneously believe they will.
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”.
Seek the Negative – well executed, it’s a Positive.