YouTube Tech Titan Marques Brownlee’s Empire Is Growing

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Ten years ago, Marques Brownlee was a 14-year-old high school junior in suburban New Jersey, who used his allowance to buy a new laptop for school. The laptop fell short of his expectations, so he taped a review of the unit and uploaded the video to YouTube. Now at age 25, more than 9 million subscribers later, Brownlee’s become a well-known tech reviewer on the platform, even winning creator of the decade at the 10th annual Shorty Awards in 2018.

Known by his moniker on his YouTube channel—MKBHD—Brownlee creates videos around tech reviews, makes explainers about features like portrait mode and puts together a retro tech series on products like the Game Boy. The channel’s audience has grown from people interested in buying a new gadget to anyone interested in the tech world.

For Brownlee, his YouTube channel is his full-time job, though he’s a graduate of the Stevens Institute of Technology, where he studied business and technology. He recently expanded his office space from 5,000 to 10,000 square feet to accommodate his growing team that helps him with preproduction, production and writing multiple videos a month.

“It’s been 10 years and been a lot of fun and I’m really grateful to be in the position I am.”
Marques Brownlee

Brownlee’s videos aren’t all fun and games; he’s evolved from reviews to critiquing features on devices, such as the OnePlus 7 Pro, questioning why a user couldn’t shoot video with the ultrawide angle lens. OnePlus reached out to him, and a few weeks later, Brownlee said, a software update fixed this problem.

As Brownlee puts it, his reviews are a win for everyone involved, as the consumer gets a better product and the brand gains a customer—or makes an existing one more satisfied. As for the future of his channel, Brownlee says he wants to further expand the scope of his tech coverage, and keep going beyond the smartphone market. He’s also interested in collaborating more with other YouTubers in the space such as Austin Evans, UnBox Therapy and iJustine. “[Usually, the] best thing that comes out of a collaboration is a better video that one channel or video couldn’t have made by [themselves],” Brownlee said.

Brownlee has no plans to stop producing and posting videos. He also launched a podcast for techies called Waveform this summer. “It’s been 10 years and been a lot of fun and I’m really grateful to be in the position I am,” Brownlee said.

How He Got the Gig
In 2009, Brownlee used his allowance to buy a laptop that ended up not worth it. He soon uploaded his first video to YouTube, and now Brownlee’s channel—MKBHD—reaches more than 9 million people.

Big Mistake
Brownlee said his biggest challenge is keeping the momentum on his channel going and widening the scope beyond smartphone reviews.

Lesson Learned
“My job is to give the most honest feedback and the most accurate review possible,” Brownlee explained, so he wants to keep expanding the range of topics he covers in the tech world.

Pro Tip
Keeping himself—and his reviews—sincere. “I get to critique tech that’s not that good and contribute to a world of products that people get to buy—better,” he said.

This story first appeared in the Nov. 18, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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