Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Marketing mavens miss the point

I'm reading: Marketing mavens miss the pointTweet this!

Is it me? Or have you also noticed a proliferation of mavens lately? Marketing mavens, tech mavens, blog mavens.

Maven is an increasingly popular term of Yiddish origin. Yiddish, the language of the ghetto. Well the Eastern European Jewish shtetl-ghetto. You know, the boychicks in the hood?

In the popular lexicon, a maven is someone who's smart and influential. And maybe "popular" is my sticking point. I haven't caught up with the times and I'm weighed down with the cultural legacy of the word.

For example, I was cool when Method announced their Method Maven program blogger outreach program, but I didn't take it kindly when Chicago Mavens* hosted a party on Yom Kippur, the holiest of all Jewish Holidays. Tacky, tacky.

I don't have a problem sharing my cultural heritage with the masses. I mean, I think it's great that we can all get big, fluffy bagels at our corner Dunkin' Donuts. But just as bagels have doubled in size over the last 20 or so years, the term maven is being stretched beyond traditional limits.

You see, traditionally, the term maven not only means smart, it means smartass, someone who's bit too big for their britches. It's a cheeky term, often used with sarcastic overtones.

Sticking with the mama loshen for a little ethnic flavor, I'd like to suggest that that those top-notch influencers, the sharp ones who not only know, but make it a priority to share their knowledge, toss the "maven" and consider the word "mensch."

A mensch is more than just a smart person; a mensch is a good person. Unlike the left-handed compliment of maven, being called a mensch is the highest praise.

A mensch does the right thing, shares the credit, plays fair, educates others even if those others don't buy their ebooks or sign on for their PR services.

Call yourself a maven if you want. But don't call yourself a mensch, because anyone who uses that term self-referentially is not one.

It is, however, perfectly acceptable to say that you strive to be a mensch. So let's all work on that. Shall we?

There are many mensches in social media. Tell me about your favorites!

* I shared my concerns with the agency reps. They explained that's just how they roll. If a client requests a party on say, Easter Sunday or Christmas Eve, the agency will host it. It's just that, "no one asks for those dates." Hmmm.


Sprite's Keeper said...

Great post! I've only been called a mensch once in my life, so in my family, it really is praise reserved for the highest honor.
I guess I would consider the pilot of United who kept all of his passengers alive to be a mensch right now.

Amy Nathan said...

It's one of the reasons I don't read Mommy Blogs for the most part. Every woman who mothers also thinks she is a brand.

You - are a mensch!

Kim Moldofsky said...

Sprite's Keeper- you've done a great job of building a community on your site with your Spin Cycle, not to mention your uncanny knack for being the first to comment on your readers' blogs. And I've yet to hear you advertise an ebook or seminar on how to build a successful blog. Or am I speaking too soon?.

Amy- Part of the reason every (can we say most?) mommybloggers are thinking of themselves as brands has to do with the so-called mavens pushing the idea. "Be a brand! Make money on your blog!" In reality, I believe that 99% of mommybloggers don't make more than spare change, or maybe grocery money or perhaps enough to send their kids to summer day camp, from their blogs. Which is fine if you blog for the love of it. Or for a sense of community.

Mommyblogging has been very good to me. I've made new friends (some IRL), learned a lot, traveled and had many great experiences. I even make money doing social media consulting. But it provides a healthy supplementary income, not a primary one.

Thanks for the compliment. But, please. Me?

Isabel Kallman said...


This is fascinating. The term "maven" really has entered the marketing lexicon in a big way since Malcolm Gladwell's "Tipping Point" popularized it. That book is now on reading lists for business school curriculums. So, it is only going to gain more prominence and perhaps change meaning.

You should read "Made to Stick." There's a chapter on how slogans can change meaning over time.

Isabel Kallman said...

oh, i'm stumbling this post.

others with Stumble accounts should consider doing the same. this is very good stuff!

Kristina said...

You are a mensch.

And yes, I've noticed a lot of mavens lately, particularly on Twitter.

Thanks for the fine-point definitions of maven and mensch.

Naomi said...

Does this mean I'm not a maven? Rats.

Carrie said...

The first time I remember encountering that word, it was in the computer Scrabble game. They call the computer player Maven, and Maven is indeed a pain in the ass. Funny.

Dani L said...

Personally, I always preferred to be referred to as a mensch than a maven. However, I understand the appeal!

GeekMommy said...

Oh yeah... this post reminded me of seeing this:

note: classes for those who are supposed to know what they're doing...

Yeah, I'm with you on the "fire the word maven" when it comes to this.

Meagan Francis said...

What a fabulous post! I agree that many (I'm not even sure I'd say most, certainly not all) mom bloggers think of themselves as a brand because the idea that we can all be our own personal, money-making brands has been so effectively sold by some of the so-called "mavens". After a while, it starts to feel like somebody's selling snake oil. To be clear, I do think that can be money to be made in blogging. But lately I've been seeing less substance, more SEO; more shameless self-promo and less community. I just think that's a blog business model that's doomed to fizzle.

JerseyBites.com said...

Loved this post. I am not Jewish but have always been so intrigued by the Yiddish language. My stepfather and Ex Husband were both Jewish but knew very little Yiddish.

I had no idea Maven was a Yiddish word. Thanks for the education. To the ignorant ear mensch sounds like the negative word and maven sounds positive. I'm happy to now know which to look out for. ;)

Michelle Lamar said...

Excellent post, as usual. I consider myself a queen or ruler of all things WT. I've been feeling very uncool as I have no ebooks but I did not think an ebook on Tampon Crafts would be a hit, LOL. Thanks again for your honesty. Refreshing.

Michelle Lamar said...

PS-I agree with Geek Mommy. Maven is in the same ballpark as one of FAVORITE cheesy words....SYNERGY.

Renée aka Mekhismom said...

I agree with you completely. It actually chaps my hide when I read about all of these so-called mavens. I do like the word mensch and that is what I am striving to be.

CharmingDriver said...

Excellent post.

Kristina said...

Have to chime in again: I think Megan Francis has a good point about less substance and less community.

Kim Moldofsky said...

Thanks because Meagan is mensch. :-) She's got great observations and ideas and expresses them well...and honestly.

Nancy said...

I, for one, am SICK of being told I have to be a brand. I blog for community, to express myself, and hopefully to make people laugh once in a while. Period. Why everyone is so obsessed with branding is beyond me. I was a professional "brander" or cable tv stations for more than a decade. So once might even say I am a branding "maven." But I don't want to be a brand, I want to be a HUMAN!
Great post.

ChefDruck said...

I love this post! What a great distinction. I think that in this blog world, our moral compasses are constantly being tested. Every day is another opportunity to throw away our self-esteem in favor of another free t-shirt. We need more posts like yours to remind us to stay honest!

selfmademom said...

I'm late to this party, but since you're one of the few other jewish bloggers that I know, I love it! I, too, was annoyed about the Method party on Yom Kippur, but now even more fired up about the yiddish! who knew? Thanks for the head's up.