When tech YouTuber Marques Brownlee, better known as MKBHD, speaks, the industry listens. With over 18 million subscribers, Brownlee has become one of the most influential voices in consumer technology, wielding the power to make or break new products with his honest, no-holds-barred reviews.

Two recent examples have demonstrated just how impactful Brownlee’s critiques can be, as his assessments of the products developed by AI startup Humane and electric vehicle maker Fisker have led to significant company responses and market ripples.

The “Worst Product I’ve Ever Reviewed” – the Humane AI Pin

In a scathing 25-minute video titled “The Worst Product I’ve Ever Reviewed… For Now,” Brownlee delivered a damning assessment of Humane’s AI Pin, a $700 device intended to reduce screen time by supposedly replacing the smartphone.

Brownlee detailed a long list of issues he encountered with the AI Pin, from software bugs to usability problems. “There’s just so many things bad about it”, he declared bluntly. “This thing is bad at almost everything it does, basically all the time”, he further stressed.

The review aligned with other critical takes on the AI Pin, but Brownlee’s massive platform had a dramatic impact. One commenter on the social media platform X even called the review “almost unethical” for its potential to “someone else’s nascent project” (but he was heavily criticized for this view).

Some of the most glaring problems with the device included:

  • It’s very slow to respond to questions
  • The answers are mostly wrong due to AI hallucinations
  • Inconsistent and short battery life
  • Excessive overheating issues
  • The PC hub used to manage the data handled by the device often needs to be refreshed
  • The projector’s text is often hard to read
  • Lack of apps that can be used with the AI Pin

“Smartphones are not going anywhere anytime soon”, Brownlee concluded upon thoroughly reviewing Humane’s latest gadget.

Most in the online community seemed to side with Brownlee’s perspective. Remarkably, a Humane executive actually thanked the YouTuber for his “fair and valid critiques,” acknowledging the need for the company to address the problems he highlighted. Reviews from other top YouTubers like Mrwhostheboss, who also has over 18 million subscribers, gave it a negative review even though he met with the company’s CEO in the video.

Brownlee’s review (and many others) put Humane on notice, making it clear that the startup would need to swiftly improve its product if it wants to build some degree of credibility and trust with its prospective customers. The episode underscores how influencers can shape the narrative around emerging technologies, forcing companies to be accountable for their offerings.

“Worst Car I’ve Ever Reviewed” Video Prompts Meltdown for Fisker Stock

Brownlee’s impact was perhaps even more pronounced in his review of the Fisker Ocean electric SUV, which he dubbed “the worst car I’ve ever reviewed.”

His 20-minute video posted on his smaller Auto Focus channel, where he reviews cars with just a phone camera, has been viewed by no less than 5.1 million people thus far. This time, Brownlee detailed a litany of mostly software-related issues he encountered, from warning lights constantly illuminating to problems with the software and solar roof monitoring.

Although he praised the car’s looks, the materials that were used to build it, its storage space, and comfort, Brownlee also went on to identify and highlight some key issues with the car’s software that were disconcerting, including the following:

  • Incomplete software that does not display anything that its solar panels are doing (though he praised the inclusion of solar panels)
  • No glove box
  • The only way to change driving modes is through an unidentified button
  • Limited “Boost” function that provides some extra acceleration but is completely disabled after 500 uses
  • Rear view and side view cameras fail to load properly multiple times

These are only some of the issues, bugs, and glitches that Brownlee pointed out. The review hit Fisker where it hurt. The stock went down by 14% on the next trading day after the video was released. Ultimately, the company’s stock plummeted by nearly 50% in the weeks following its release. It’s important to note that Fisker was already in a deep hole at this point but the review certainly didn’t help.

Also read: Will Tesla Ever Reclaim Its Former Glory? Wave of Downgrades Hits the Stock Hard

This went on to make things even more difficult for the startup, which was already struggling with financial issues and delisting notices. In late March, just a month and a half after Brownlee’s video, Fisker was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) as the stock price stood below $1 for over 30 days after receiving a warning from the exchange.

Brownlee’s influence was so profound that it even prompted a bizarre phone call from a purported Fisker senior engineer to the dealer who had lent Brownlee the car, desperately seeking to make contact with the YouTuber. The engineer (or his colleague) even posted a TikTok video of the strange call which quickly went viral on both TikTok and X (Twitter).


While Fisker acknowledged the need to address customer feedback and rolled out a software update, the damage had been done. A former Fisker Ocean owner came forward to share their own “nightmare” experience with the vehicle, echoing many of Brownlee’s complaints.

This last saga further highlighted how a single influential voice can sway public perception and have tangible business implications. Fisker’s struggles, including warnings about potential bankruptcy, suggest that the company may not have been prepared for the scrutiny that came with launching a highly anticipated new product.

The Power of Influencers in the Social Media Era

These two incidents highlight the outsized influence that tech reviewers like Marques Brownlee wield in the modern landscape. As traditional media struggles to maintain relevance, a new generation of online personalities has emerged as the tastemakers and trendsetters shaping consumer attitudes.

Brownlee’s YouTube channel boasts almost a higher number of subscribers compared to the combined totals of major news outlets like the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. This gives him a platform to directly shape perceptions around products and brands in a way that traditional journalists simply cannot match at the moment.

In fact, some of these media outlets have even used the materials Brownlee and other similar niche-specific influencers have posted as their reviews and comments have gone viral and can be considered news all by themselves.

This amplifies their reach and gives them an even bigger say in what they are showcasing, reviewing, or commenting to the point that it could be dangerous considering that they often have agendas and business interests that may not be adequately disclosed.

The tech industry’s reliance on hype and early-stage releases has also contributed to the power of influencers. Eager to capture mindshare and drive adoption, companies are often willing to put unfinished or flawed products into the hands of consumers, banking on the promise of future updates to address shortcomings.

However, as the Humane and Fisker cases demonstrate, this strategy can backfire spectacularly when faced with the cold, hard scrutiny of an influential reviewer. Consumers are increasingly unwilling to overlook subpar experiences and influencers have become the gatekeepers who can make or break a product’s success.

The Perils of Ignoring Influencer Feedback

The brands’ attempts to control the narrative have proved futile most of the time. Brownlee remained steadfast in his commitment to reviewing the products as they were, not as the companies hoped they would be in the future. His honest assessments resonated with his audience, who were eager for unvarnished takes on the latest tech offerings. This is part of why MKBHD became so popular. Everyone wants reviews that are clearly honest and aren’t just sales pitches.

The consequences for the companies were severe. Humane’s AI Pin was widely panned, with Brownlee’s review serving as a major blow to the product’s credibility. However, almost everyone who reviewed it, including B2C, found it lacking at best so it’s hard to tell how much impact Brownlee’s review had on its own. Fisker’s stock price plummeted and the company has since warned of potential bankruptcy, underscoring how a single negative review can have far-reaching financial implications.

“Too often, companies view potential customers as an extension of their research and development.”, Dan De Franceso, a writer for Business Insider, highlighted in a private newsletter. “They are happy to sell a product that is still a work in progress on the promise they’ll fix it on the fly.”

This mentality has become increasingly untenable in the age of social media, where influencers like Brownlee hold the power to rapidly amplify and validate consumer sentiment. Companies can no longer afford to dismiss or downplay critical feedback, as doing so risks alienating both the influencers and the broader public.

The Path Forward for Tech Brands – Working Alongside Influencers

the humane ai pin

The Humane and Fisker sagas serve as a wake-up call for tech companies seeking to navigate the influencer-driven landscape. To effectively engage with and harness the power of leading voices like Marques Brownlee, brands must be willing to:

  • Embrace Transparency: Acknowledge flaws and shortcomings openly rather than attempting to gloss over or downplay them. Consumers and influencers alike value authenticity and honesty.
  • Prioritize Quality over Speed: Resist the temptation to rush unfinished products to market, even in the face of competitive pressures. Invest in robust testing and iteration to ensure a solid consumer experience.
  • Engage Proactively with Influencers: Actively seek out feedback from influential reviewers and be prepared to address their concerns in a timely and substantive manner. Avoid dismissive or defensive responses.
  • Foster Long-Term and More Meaningful Relationships: Build ongoing partnerships with key influencers, leveraging their insights to inform product development and refine marketing strategies. Treat them as valuable collaborators, not just promotional channels.

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By adopting a more collaborative and customer-centric approach, tech companies can harness the power of influencer marketing while mitigating the risks of negative reviews. Ultimately, the path to long-term success lies in prioritizing quality, transparency, and a genuine commitment to meeting the needs of the modern, digitally savvy consumer.

The Humane and Fisker episodes serve as cautionary tales but also as opportunities for the industry to evolve. As the influence of online personalities continues to grow, companies that learn to navigate this new paradigm will be best positioned to thrive in the years ahead.