Lightning in a Paint Can


Question: When does paint in a can become lightening in a bottle?

Answer: At 1 million+ TikTok subscribers


We recently talked about Tony Piloseno, a former Sherwin-Williams employee and TikTok superstar who was recently fired from Sherwin-Williams for posting videos about his passion, paint. It didn't matter that Tony had a million and a half followers or had videos with a million views; what was important was the integrity of the brand, blah, blah, blah.


Listen to Tony's story and why companies need to wise-up to the fact that empowering employees on social media might actually be a good thing. Powered by Symphony Talent, where your company can find their inner Cult Brand.


PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION sponsored by:

Disability Solutions helps forward thinking employers create world class hiring and retention programs for people with disabilities.


INTRO (1s):

Hide your kids! Lock the doors! You're listening to HR’s most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman are here to punch the recruiting industry, right where it hurts! Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark, buckle up boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.


Joel (23s):

Oh yeah, we got paint boy on the show today. What's up everybody. This is Joel Cheesman of the Chad and Cheese podcast always joined by my Tonto, Chad Sowash.


Chad (37s):

Proudly.


Joel (37s):

Chad, how are you, man? We got a follow up to one of our weekly stories. I can't wait to get into this one now.


Chad (44s):

He's he's paint, dude. He's not paint boy, because he's in college. He's a senior.


Joel (49s):

He's a content creator.


Chad (51s):

Here's a little bit of an intro from Buzzfeed. Okay. So an Ohio University, senior who worked a part-time job at a local Sherwin-Williams store was fired after the company discovered he was mixing paint on a Tik Tok channel where it's At @tonesterpaints, which currently has 1.5 million followers. So that's, that's kind of like the backstory. We talked about that on the weekly show. Let's go ahead and bring it's Tony Piloseno. Tony, how you doing bud?


Joel (1m 25s):

Hello, Tony Piloseno.


Tony (1m 28s):

I'm in Ohio. Where are you guys?


Joel (1m 30s):

Are you in Ohio network?


Tony (1m 31s):

Yeah, I'm going to Athens, Ohio right now. I'm still at school for the next couple of weeks.


Joel (1m 36s):

Beautiful, beautiful school, big, big party school.


Tony (1m 40s):

Yes sir!


Joel (1m 42s):

It's home of Roger Ales, which is always nice to talk about.


Chad (1m 46s):

Known for its painting apparently. So, so Tony give us some, give us some, some backstory on this. I mean, we, we hear what's, you know, the Buzzfeed story, so on and so forth, you go in to work and then somebody gives you a call and you're like, what the fuck's going on here?


Joel (2m 2s):

Were you always a painter dude or was Sherwin-Williams like just, it was a job.


Tony (2m 7s):

Well, yeah, I mean, when I first started at Sherman Williams, about three years ago, I didn't know shit about paint. I and I fell in love with the job immediately, man. I mean, I love the industry. Loved helping people with their projects, picking out colors, the process. It was all good. My whole career path was going to lead down through Sherman Williams corporate chain doing all that. But last year, last December, I had downloaded TikTok and I saw that other people at paint stores were doing these paint videos, just the process of a mixing gallon paint. And it fell into like the oddly satisfying category.


Joel (2m 39s):

So was this like, Oh, I don't know. Lowes, paint. Yeah. TikTok account versus,


Tony (2m 45s):

Oh no, no. They were just some part-time workers too making the videos at the store.


Joel (2m 51s):

OK, so same thing.


Tony (2m 52s):

Right.


Joel (2m 53s):

Okay.


Tony (2m 53s):

So, you know, the videos took off almost immediately. I think my sixth video got like a million views.


Chad (2m 59s):

Fuck!


Joel (2m 60s):

Christ.


Tony (3m 2s):

So what I, what I tried doing was I wanted to basically change the digital marketing game for the paint industry and just make interesting content to younger people. And SW didn't really like that. And they canned me for it.


Chad (3m 15s):

Get a little deeper into this, this wasn't like your manager saying, Hey, you're screwing around on company time. This isn't good for us, blah, blah, blah. This was somebody from loss prevention. I mean some, some suit who had no fucking clue, probably what Tik Tok even is today. Well, he probably does today, but probably didn't even know what Tik Tok was. They were saying that you were a harming the brand.


Tony (3m 41s):

Well, yeah, dude. I mean, I had made a presentation to show to marketing I showed it to my manager and sales rep. Damn. Yeah. I mean, it was legit. I showed it to all my marketing professors here at OU and they said, move forward with this, get it to marketing. And I tried and basically got blown off for it. They didn't even look at the presentation. So I just kept making videos. And then apparently someone had called customer service up in Cleveland at their headquarters and said, was complaining that I was mixing...


Joel (4m 9s):

Was it the blueberry? Did the blueberry get you in trouble?


Tony (4m 12s):

It was the blueberry video.


Joel (4m 13s):

Wow. So talk about the blueberry video.


Tony (4m 16s):

Well, what I wanted to do is, I did a bunch of research on like the history of paint and they used, they used to use like natural, they call them natural pigments, as like dyes for the paint, like berries, roots. So I figured, it'd be cool for a video. So I bought, I was buying my own paint for those kinds of videos and thought it would be a cool concept to make a video for. And that video took off that one, got like 20 million views. That's how Sherwin-Williams found out about it.


Chad (4m 44s):

They weren't excited about this, that they were, that their brand was actually getting out and seen by 20 million different viewers.


Tony (4m 53s):

No.


Joel (4m 53s):

Yeah. How was the brand represented? Were you always wearing a Sherwin-Williams shirt? Hat? Was the paint always there? Did you always mention like, Hey, the new paint from Sherwin Williams da da da?


Tony (5m 4s):

Before, I made that presentation, I was literally trying to promote Sherman Williams, like, Hey, come into the store and get these school colors. But then once the marketing thing didn't work out with trying to show off that presentation, I just took away the label completely. And then yeah, they, they still found out about it because I didn't want to be doing videos like that, that wasn't really approved of without what their brand and you know.


Joel (5m 28s):

Yeah. Yeah.


Chad (5m 30s):

It's interesting because first and foremost brands are always trying to look at new, new mediums. Right. They're looking at, they're trying to, they're trying to actually get out into new mediums.


Joel (5m 42s):

Especially consumer companies.


Chad (5m 43s):

They're trying to gain traction and, and you had a just add water solution. Cause you already had this, this user base who wanted to see this. And Sherwin Williams, I mean, hell they could have easily just grabbed this up. I mean really just taking it from you to be quite Frank, but no, they kicked you out the door. How did that tell me how that felt, man, because I mean, you were really, you're passionate about what you're doing. How did that feel?


Joel (6m 14s):

You got to think you're on the fast track to like corporate job in Cleveland, which, who doesn't want that. But I mean, the minute you got a million views and had a million followers, you were like, dude, I'm set. I'm going to be corporate Sherwin Williams for the next 20 years if I want it.


Tony (6m 29s):

Well, dude, I mean my whole career path was going to go through Sherwin Williams, go. I had an internship lined up, was going to go into management sales. I literally loved the job. It almost felt like I got like betrayed.


Chad (6m 40s):

You did.


Tony (6m 40s):

By the company. I did a lot for them, I worked there for a very long time. And then I have some dude in, I like to call them the "paint police" - loss prevention. He basically interrogated me, wanted to know if I was stealing, which I wasn't. They found out that I wasn't, but then they pulled some BS, excuse. Like I was like, what was it? Serious embarrassment to the company. And yeah, it sucked. But honestly I think it's almost like a blessing in disguise at this point. Like you said, they probably wouldn't take taken that from me.


Chad (7m 9s):

Yeah. Let's talk about the blessing. Because as soon as this hit, not who, who, first and foremost who picked it up? And then after it was picked up, it seemed like it just like exploded. Tell me about that, because this does seem like almost like a blessing in disguise.


Tony (7m 25s):

If they were to take, if they would've went with that TikTok or my presentation now, after all this had happened, they would have made it into some corporate, I don't even know bit saturated with corporate.


Chad (7m 37s):

They would have fucked it up.


Tony (7m 39s):

Yeah. There's there's there's when it comes to social media and these platforms, you have to have authenticity to it and they would have completely screwed that up. So yeah.


Joel (7m 49s):

And they still don't have an account right on TikTok?


Tony (7m 51s):

I don't think so. I don't think they're going to now.


Chad (7m 54s):

You had, you had this broke and you had a bunch of big brands actually get in touch with you. Tell us, tell us about that. And you found a home, tell us who you picked and why you picked them.


Joel (8m 6s):

Yeah. And what was the TicTok reaction were a million people like, fuck Sherwin Williams?


Tony (8m 12s):

Oh dude. It was insane. I made that the initial video that blew up and got a whole, the media got ahold of was the story about how I had gotten fired. That video really took off and people were like bashing Sherwin Williams about it. My goal, I don't know if you guys had seen that initial video, but my goal wasn't even to bash Sherwin Williams and be like, Hey, like screw you guys. It was to basically develop like an emotional connection with my audience.


Chad (8m 37s):

Yeah.


Tony (8m 38s):

Basically give them a reason why I do what I do.


Chad (8m 41s):

Yeah.


Tony (8m 41s):

And people put two and two together, found out it was Sherwin Williams and took it from there and they got grilled on the internet.


Chad (8m 48s):

Oh, yeah. So tell us, tell us about those big brands that came to to you and why you and where you went and why picked it?


Tony (8m 56s):

So I, after that video broke out, I got basically partnership offers and deals from basically every major paint company in the United States, like Behr, PBG, Benny Moore, a few smaller ones. And I went with a company called Florida Paints down there in Orlando.


Joel (9m 14s):

They didn't want to hire you necessarily, but they wanted to sponsor?


Tony (9m 17s):

Right sponsor the videos.


Joel (9m 19s):

Okay. So nobody said, come work for us. It was like, Hey, let's partner. I'll pay for you to post videos and promote our paints.


Tony (9m 26s):

Well they did, they did offer like mainly year contracts. And after I had graduated, I would graduate they would offer me a job. But man, I wanted to steer away after that whole thing was Sherwin Williams from the big corporate culture.


Joel (9m 40s):

I don't blame you.


Tony (9m 41s):

Hey, those big companies, man, there's too much of a chain of command. There's too many people you got to filter through it.


Joel (9m 46s):

Too many lawyers.


Tony (9m 47s):

Exactly. And so I went with the company, Florida Paints in Orlando. I met with the founder, Don Strubey and he it's a smaller company. They only have a, I think about 25 to 30 stores down in Florida. And Don had called me and he was the only one only person that I talked to through all these companies that I felt connection, like a shared passion for the importance of paint and the art of it. And that was something that really, I felt like connected with me. And I've wanted to work with them ever since that.


Chad (10m 17s):

He got you is what it was.


Tony (10m 19s):

Right. Yeah.


Chad (10m 21s):

You know, this is, this is definitely a message to all of those brands that are out there that we talk to all the time. This wasn't just a consumer play, from the standpoint of Sherwin Williams. This was a guy who wanted to spend his life, give 40 hours a week, plus blood, sweat, and tears over time, all this stuff because he had a passion for what he was doing and they just threw all that shit in a can. And now, and now a company, Florida Paints, I definitely want to give those guys some love. They understood they weren't corporate. They weren't buttoned up in bullshit about this.


Chad (11m 2s):

They understood that you were actually just demonstrating passion in who you were and that's what they wanted in their culture. And that's why you pick them.


Tony (11m 12s):

Exactly. That is exactly what happened.


Joel (11m 15s):

Steer your content at all. How has your content changed if at all?


Tony (11m 19s):

Well, when I go to, I'm going to be moving down there within the next few weeks, but it's basically going to be tones of paints powered by Florida Paints. They're going to give me all the supplies and resources. I need to express my creativity through my content.


Joel (11m 31s):

Gotcha.


Chad (11m 32s):

What's the position title? I mean, what are you actually going to be doing for them above and beyond TikTok? Or is it just that?


Tony (11m 41s):

Well, I'm going to be working like a, almost like a sales associate job, like I was before in the store. But along with that, I'm going to be doing digital marketing. Basically creating content.


Joel (11m 50s):

Gotcha, awesome. Gotcha.


Symphony Talent (11m 54s):

We'll get back to the interview in a minute. Building a cult brand is not easy, which is why you need friends. Like Roopesh Nair CEO of Symphony Talent on your side, okay? OK Roopesh, hiring companies can't hire diverse candidates. If diverse candidates aren't applying for their jobs, what should hiring companies do differently to attract a more diverse candidate? Easier than ever before to create video. Yeah. Companies seem confused about how to use video to build an employer brand. What is your advice to companies who want to leverage video? Keep it very, very genuine and only way you can keep it genuine is by making it basically come from people who actually work for you and actually not very tailored. The more you can leave it loose and let people kind of express themselves using video, the more genuine and, and connecting it would be.


Symphony Talent (12m 40s):

So, yeah, it's good to kind of give people a guideline on how they want to kind of communicate about the brand and ensure that you're hitting the top points out there. But, but frankly, getting it out there to ensure that you're, co-creating those videos with your, with your employees is, is the right way to go. And then bringing that content into your engagement. As I think about it, and I'll give a shout out to our friends at Altru here. I think something like that is the best way to actually actually really build videos than necessarily doing big, you know, video shoots and things like that. I mean, video shoots have their place when you build those corporate videos, but, but if you really want to use video as a marketing content, then it needs to be curated in a very genuine way.


Symphony Talent Promo (13m 24s):

Let symphony talent help activate your brand and keep relationships at the heart of your talent strategy. For more information, visit symphonytalent.com.


Joel (13m 39s):

I have to, I have to note Tony, I want to back up a little bit. We have hundreds of companies that would love to blow up like you did on social media. So one of my questions is like, what tips would you give a corporation? You mentioned authenticity, which I think is important, but what are some tips you would give a company to sort of blow up like you did? Cause a million is no is no joke. That's legitimate blown up on social media.


Tony (14m 4s):

Well, you know, I have always followed three rules of social media after doing research, learning just the platforms and all that. And it really all kind of comes together, no matter which platform you use, my three rules are consistency, you have to post about every day. Quality of content, you got to make sure it's stuff people want to see. And then the third one, is engaging with your followers, making it feel like, they belong there and like they're a part of the page.


Joel (14m 32s):

Gotcha.


Chad (14m 32s):

Well, and you mentioned connection though, too, because you said that you wanted to make a connection with your user. So it was the content, but you felt it was really important to make a connection, a human connection as well.


Tony (14m 44s):

Exactly, exactly. I mean, I hadn't really done that before either. I had basically just been making paint videos and I just, like I said, I wanted to give my audience a reason why I do what I do. I'm not just mixing paint in some basement for no reason.


Joel (14m 59s):

No, I'm curious as a, because you're a young person, we don't get young people on the show that often, break down for me, TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, and then, you know, like Facebook and Twitter, like where do you spend most of your time? Where do you see most of your peers spend time? Which ones are sort of like way passe and we're over that. And are there any platforms that we should be looking at in the future to take off like TikTok has?


Tony (15m 26s):

I mean, dude TikTok I think is, is really in the past year, changed the game completely. It's almost turning into like a, I don't know if you remember Instagram, that kind of, it's almost like I'll TikTok is now. There's not really any like business to or anything, but on Instagram and stuff, now you can shop, you can, it's basically a search engine. Now, Instagram, you can look up anything on there


Joel (15m 46s):

Predict you there'll be a day where there'll be a Sherwin-Williams ad come before or after your TikTok on paints. So yes. Are you Snapchatting, like Instagram is still hot, right? Like what's the temperature and all these sites


Tony (16m 0s):

I've been sticking to YouTube, Instagram and Tik TOK. I haven't really gotten into Snapchat yet. Maybe Twitter I would get into, but I mean, man, it's, it's a full-time job trying to manage and upload content to all these, all these platforms, but TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, or like the video platforms, which I try to stay, stay with the most.


Joel (16m 22s):

And where do you sort of, where do you expect to be in five years? If we had this interview five years from now, where to, where do you hope to be and what do you hope to be doing?


Tony (16m 29s):

That is a great question. I guess what another reason I had chosen Florida Paints is, was cause I'm going to be able to develop my knowledge and understanding of the paint industry and become more of like a respected personnel in it. Obviously my name's already known throughout the industry, but I just want to grow my knowledge. So maybe, I mean, if the digital marketing thing doesn't work out cause things die, but I'm going to keep at it and keep going with that. But maybe like becoming in sales. I, yeah, it's just something like that. You know, just something.


Chad (16m 59s):

Has that changed that you want to go up through the ranks in the same organization or are you pretty much open to do whatever now?


Tony (17m 5s):

Well, I'm open to do whatever, whatever, wherever life takes me, how this whole thing plays out. I'm still not really sure. I mean this whole thing has happened.


Chad (17m 12s):

Quickly.


Tony (17m 13s):

Quickly. It's not even been a year since I made my first TikTok.


Chad (17m 17s):

Wow.


Tony (17m 18s):

So who knows?


Joel (17m 19s):

Well from my standpoint, you know what you're doing could not have been done when Chad and I were your age. So it's fascinating. It's fascinating to see. And the fact that you have so many followers on a, on a platform that is not going anywhere anytime soon is, is obviously a