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TikTok Star Tony Piloseno on Being Fired To Building a Brand

He went from being fired for making TikTok videos to being the paint industry’s most viral story to date. This week, we welcome Tony Piloseno to the show to get the inside scoop on how he used social media to share his passion for paint — and find brand success.

Photo of Zach Williams
Photo of Beth PopNikolov
by Zach Williams and Beth PopNikolov

More About This Episode

Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insights on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.

Tony Piloseno is a huge name in the Venveo office and on TikTok. Now the full-time owner and CEO of Tonester Paints, we brought in Tony to hear the whole story and what he’s learned while creating the hottest #paint content online today.

Retail Marketing

Tony Piloseno isn’t new to the paint industry, where he landed about six years ago. “I started at one of the bigger manufacturers around the United States (and the world), just as a retail sales associate. And during my time there, I really developed a passion and enjoyment for paint. Just the color aspect of things, just all things about paint,” says Tony.

This passion motivated him to create content about paint for his employer, Sherwin-Williams. Tony was also a marketing student at the time and worked at a Sherwin-Williams store when he wasn’t in class. “I just figured there had to be some sort of benefit to creating TikTok content of paint, the products.” When TikTok started to gain popularity a few years back, he joined the platform to talk more about paint.

“I thought a cool way to show what it's like to work in the paint business, in the retail shop, was creating paint mixing videos, showing the different pigments to achieve certain paint colors, just simple stuff like that,” he explains.

As a marketing student, however, he knew he’d need more of a strategy if he wanted to effectively spread the word about the paint industry. “The goal was to develop brand awareness and show the cool process of paint mixing to a younger demographic that may not be familiar with the industry, the products, how it all works,” says Tony.

Tony started making videos, “And, no, I actually didn't know what the reaction was going to be at first,” he says. “I just thought it would be a cool creative expression at first. Basically, what I'm doing day to day, [I am] just putting that through video content and sharing that with other people.”

And that video content started gaining major traction.

What To Do When Your Content Goes Viral

It didn’t take very long for Tony’s paint videos to gain traction with viewers. “I think my sixth video hit a million views,” he says.

While there isn’t a magic formula that ensures your TikTok videos will get millions of views, Tony used a few strategies that are worth sharing.

Teach + Take Notes:

Tony experimented with content in his videos and took note of what his followers engaged with. “People were reacting in the sense that it was almost like informative content,” Tony says. “People didn't know that this was actually how paint colors were created, which is the increment of different pigments, specific pigments to achieve certain colors, which I thought was cool.”

Remember to Play:

While he didn’t start making videos with a specific plan in place, he knew he needed to be consistent and just keep creating. So he experimented and had fun with the content. “I always thought it was cool [how] TikTok incorporated music into the app, so just fast-paced video style, upbeat music,” he says. “I wanted to keep the momentum going just because I thought it was cool that these videos were reaching such a large amount of people.”

An artist is pouring black paint out of a condiment bottle into a bucket of white paint.


Post With Passion:

People actually watched Tony’s videos because they’re engaging and informative — and Tony's passion for paint is infectious. “Getting people to watch content that you are passionate about — I just thought that was cool,” he says. “And the thing about the paint industry is that no one had really found a way to grab attention on paint product[s] before through social media content. So, that was something that I realized.”

Tony realized that the paint content he provided his audience delivered value. “People hadn't been coming into the stores or anything yet [and] weren't calling, but they were just gaining value from that content, just in a small way, and it wasn't even intentional at first,” he says.

It might not have been intentional, but it’s here that Tony’s story really started to take off.

Making Controversial Content

As he experimented with content on social media, Tony wanted to branch out and get more creative with his TikTok videos.

“I started expanding into different ideas with the paint mixing videos,” he says. “After doing some research on paint product and how paints used to be made, [I discovered that it was from] a lot of berries, dyes, roots — just natural, organic material.” He came across stories of people using blueberries to tint paint and made a video explaining the process.

“[I] thought it'd be a cool idea to put blueberries in the paint and act as if the blueberries tinted paint or created the pigments to tint paint like they used to. So, that was the big one…” he says.

Screenshot of a TikTok video with 1.3 million views; an artist is dripping dark blue paint into a bucket of white paint.


“That's when I got a call from the loss prevention department of Sherwin-Williams, and [they] said that they were getting complaints about my videos from customers.” Ultimately, Tony was fired from his position in retail at Sherwin-Williams for “gross misconduct.”

“Basically doing stuff on the clock that I shouldn't have been doing even though I told them, ‘Hey, I tried bringing this as like a marketing opportunity,’ all that kind of stuff, and they still made that initial decision to let me go,” explains Tony.

But that didn’t stop him from making paint content. Tony kept at it. “I still liked creating the content. Still wanted to be involved with paint. I was in a mindset where I wasn't going to let that stop me from doing what I enjoyed: showing people what I was passionate about. Just cool content in general,” he says.

And at this stage, Tony had a following. “I didn't want to let my audience down.”

A TikTok titled “Story Time: How I got fired;” Tony is sitting in his car in a gray sweatshirt, glasses, and a black beanie.


In November of 2020, Tony posted a very honest, straightforward video on TikTok explaining his firing from Sherwin-Williams. ”And then that's when that video took off,” he says. “The media had gotten ahold of it, all the other paint companies in the industry got ahold of it,” says Tony.

In fact, his video about getting fired was seen over 40 million times.

The Power of Social Storytelling

Tony Piloseno’s story has been a big one in the Venveo office for a while now, and when the TikTok video went viral, the team was fired up. “I wake up on a Monday, and there's seven emails in my inbox, all pointing to the same Newsweek article like, ‘Did you see this guy?’” says Beth of Venveo. “Because your video where you talked about getting fired then becomes your most-watched video overnight.”

His video about getting fired required vulnerability on his part, and Tony connected with his followers in a big way because of that story. “It really resonated with people. And it was kind of the classic David and Goliath story, right? Big company, small worker trying to do something good. I think that's how people perceived it,” says Tony.

“The big thing especially with social media content marketing I've just come to learn that there's three pillars to it, right? It's entertainment, informative and emotional, right? It's simple as that.

Once the media found out about Tony’s story, he started getting more attention — and job offers from several paint brands. “Florida Paints is ultimately the company that I decided to work with,” he says.

The family-run business is smaller than other brands, but they made their job offer to Tony extra sweet: “They would help me build Tonester Paints as its own startup paint brand,” explains Tony. “[They’d] help me develop the online shop, just make it an actual brand, an actual product, a physical product. So, I ultimately chose to work with them [and] for them to manufacture my product, help me get started with things.”

What we love most about Tony’s success story is that it’s hard to stand out in the paint product category. “Blue is blue is blue.” says Beth, “I appreciate and see your nomenclature, but let's just be honest. Paint is paint.”

What a lot of paint and other building materials brands can overlook is that customers don’t necessarily care about a product’s features or benefits, but that’s what brands tend to sell to an audience.

We forget to tell the human story behind our brand — and that’s ultimately what customers connect with. “Because one thing that I've also learned, too, is that especially consumers who are buying products online, they want to feel like they're buying it from another person rather than a brand,” says Tony.

Want Even More Insight?

Tony continues to create great content for Tonester as CEO and owner of the brand. “A goal of mine is to have a story behind each one of my paint colors. So, that's the avenue that I take when making my content — [it] is [about] just telling the story behind the color that I'm showing you, just in quick content form like I always have been.”

We’re thrilled to hear about Tony’s success and can’t wait to see where Tonester goes in the future.

Be sure to listen to the full interview here — you can find Tony on Instagram or Facebook and can check out the Tonester Paints website here.

Want more ideas for creating solid content? Check out our other podcast episode on TikTok strategies for manufacturers.