“Maven,” meaning “expert, connoisseur, or authority,” is emerging as one of the hottest words of 2018. A hotel, a smartphone, a streetwear line and a private wine club have all adopted “maven” as a moniker this year. And, it was revealed today, there’s Project Maven, the controversial Pentagon program designed to use computer algorithms to evaluate footage from drones.
Of course, “maven” is a piece of the mamaloshen, the mother tongue, that penetrated the mainstream long ago, like “schlep,” “chutzpah“ or “kvetch.” Why the maven wave now?
“Brand names are always a reflection of the culture’s current psychology,” mused Shawn Amos, Los Angeles-based partner and chief creative officer of the branding firm Hudson Cutler. ”‘Maven’ really speaks to what we’re wanting at the moment, doesn’t it? Which of us isn’t hungering for some expertise right now? A maven has deep knowledge and understanding, which seems in short supply. It also has gender fluidness. A maven could be any size, shape or sex.“
Melinda Welch, creative director of the New York communications firm The Door, agrees. “Collectively, we’re grappling with the notion of expertise: Who can be an expert? How and when is expertise valued? Is expertise always beneficial, or can it be a hindrance at times? With so many questions, it makes perfect sense that we’re looking for new words to help us navigate this shifting landscape, and latching on to ones that put us on solid ground,” she said.
To help you become a maven on Mavens, here’s a primer on the hottest new brands:
What: “An independent, communal hotel, supporting adventurous travelers and locals alike.”
Why Maven? “A maven is a person who knows a lot about a particular subject, a person who is an expert in their craft,” said The Maven Hotel’s general manager, Gerry Link. “Denver’s new Dairy Block [the hotel’s location] is all about celebrating the maker, the craftsperson, the expert in their endeavor. It seemed appropriate that our independent hotel would be called The Maven, as we want to be home to the maker, the expert, the person who knows about their craft. And we get to be the mavens of hospitality.”
What: A splashy new phone from the Chinese manufacturer ZTE. AT&T liked it so much that it offered the Maven free to new customers.
Why Maven? ZTE wouldn’t comment. But if online reviews give any clue, it might rename the phone The Schmuck. “Absolutely worthless,” one user ranted on the company’s pages. “Waste of money,” another said.
What: “A more connected seamless car sharing experience” from General Motors Co.
Why Maven? “Our intention was to create an elevated car sharing experience, one that would help de-stigmatize car sharing and engage members to be there for the moments that matter,” spokesperson Annalisa Bluhm said. Bonus: GM’s deep pockets mean that these people now own the Maven URL.
What: Up-with-people sweats and tees, like “Never Sold Dope” T-shirts ($20) and hoodies ($55).
Why Maven? The company wouldn’t comment, but creator Keinon Johnson expounds on the brand online: “No one is perfect, and the message of ‘Never Sold Dope’ is not about judging those who have sold or do sell drugs. No, our message is directed at the most impressionable people of our communities, the kids, to show them an alternative image of success that is exclusively attained through hard work, creativity and perseverance.”
What: A Dublin-based “interactive magazine featuring uniquely curated shoppable content from the best of fashion, beauty and lifestyle.”
Why Maven? “We wanted to create an online magazine with content based on real expertise, and ‘maven’ means someone who has knowledge and instills that knowledge to someone else, which sums up the essence of the business,” said Tanya Grimson, CEO, editor and founder of maven46. “I was aware of its Yiddish background, but it didn’t play a specific part in the reason we chose it.”
What: In Chicago, “the wine club reinvented…. Curated wine, wine education, vivacious events and bespoke services await you.”
Why Maven? “Unable to comment,” a spokesperson told us. But according to its site, “Mavens & Aficionados members are to have access to all of the tools of our experts. Your membership will not only include learning about the history, terroir and people behind the great wines you are drinking, but with each shipment, our sommelier’s personal tasting notes from his extensive travels.”
What: “A software project management and comprehension tool. Based on the concept of a project object model.” We don’t understand it either.
Why Maven? “‘Maven,’ a Yiddish word meaning ‘accumulator of knowledge,’ was originally started as an attempt to simplify the build processes in the Jakarta [turbine] Project. There were several projects, each with their own Ant build files that were all slightly different, and JARs were checked into CVS. We wanted a standard way to build the projects, a clear definition of what the project consisted of, an easy way to publish project information and a way to share JARs across several projects.”
Michael Kaminer writes about culture and entertainment for the Forward.