3 mistakes Sherwin-Williams made in firing TikTok star Tony Piloseno

The employee had more than a million followers watching his videos of mixing paint. Now the social media star is taking his talents to Florida Paint.


There was a time when nobody over the age of 25 had heard of Tony Piloseno.

He was a college student and Sherwin-Williams associate who loved to mix paint for his 1.2 million TikTok followers. Then Sherwin-Williams fired him for using company paint on company time—what they called “gross misconduct,” even though he bought his own paint. The action turned him into a bona fide internet media star.

Piloseno is now happily employed by Florida Paints, a paint manufacturer that wanted his passion inside their company. “What impressed me about Tony is that he wasn’t polished. He was a kid who mixed paints to make great colors in a dynamic way,” Florida Paints co-founder Don Strube says. “The hard part about paint is finding people who see paint as exciting—and Tony does. Color is what makes the world look great, and Tony was making paint amazing.”

Sherwin-Williams will feel the pain of losing Piloseno for decades. Here’s why:

1. Young people buy paint, too.

Piloseno’s immediate superiors loved his passion and told him to take his work to company headquarters. Sherwin-Williams’ marketing team told him to get lost—and a month later, they canned him.

The corporate office’s decision cost them a passionate, dedicated employee who wanted to help Sherwin-Williams attract young customers. Today’s college students are tomorrow’s renters and homeowners—and they will buy paint for at least the next half-century. Instead of cultivating Piloseno and his brand, Sherwin-Williams sent him, his brand—and his 1.2 million fans—to another company.

2. Dynamic brands recognize, incorporate, and promote opportunities when they arise.

Strube says he’s not a social media guru, but when his Gen Z/Millennial-aged daughters told him about Piloseno, he immediately looked him up. When Piloseno’s firing became public, Florida Paints made hiring him a priority. Today, Strube’s paint company has a dedicated employee who will make paint exciting, earn them increased brand value, and improve their bottom line.

By choosing the path of the stodgy, Sherwin-Williams made an unforced branding error. They lost the future brand value Piloseno would have brought and brought on days of terrible media coverage. (Their PR firm didn’t return my requests for comment for this story.)

3. Great leaders want other great people with them.

We may never know why Sherwin-Williams’ marketing team shooed Piloseno away. What we do know is that Strube, who is 61, saw passion and entrepreneurship in 22-year old TikTok star. You can teach skills and offer experience. You can’t teach passion. And now Florida Paints gets to be the young, hip paint brand, while Sherwin-Williams is the lackluster, “watch paint dry” company.

From bad press today to losing customers in the future, Sherwin-Williams may have cost itself hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Meanwhile, Florida Paints has secured a dynamic, entrepreneurial employee who has convinced over a million people that paint is exciting. The brand winner of this paint war is clear.

Dustin Siggins is CEO of Proven Media Solutions, a Virginia-based PR firm. 


30 Responses to “3 mistakes Sherwin-Williams made in firing TikTok star Tony Piloseno”

    Kathy Wattman says:

    Spot on story. Love Tony’s enthusiasm. Sad SW doesn’t recognize how important engagement with the brand is – on every level. Kudos to Florida Paint. I will surely be checking them out!

    Jack Agnew says:

    I wish you had the courage to call out a communications firm that practices the exact opposite of our function. I hope Florida Paints becomes the new “hot” company and the PR is outed for continuing to bungle any response. Ever here of mea culpa?

    Ronald Levy says:

    Just as employees of schools, hospitals and stores should do their jobs during working hours, you’re not crazy or mean if you think that so should paint company employees. Any of us can easily understand it if an employee spends a few minutes, once in a while, trying to be creative. But the public would have to pay more, perhaps millions more a year, if employees could spend hours a week not working at their jobs but having fun projects.

    In our free country Tony had every right in the world to make Tik Toks but should he do this on his own time? Google shows that America has over 100 million fulltime employed people even during this Covid crisis so can you imagine how many hours would be spent on fun projects instead of work if each employee spent even two hours a week making Tik Toks or doing other fun projects?

    It could be tempting to take home an employer’s merchandise to help a good cause, or to spend a few working hours each week on political projects, but just as a woman has a right to say “no” to some things, does a company?

    This story is a good example of how a good company can get bad publicity by treating all employees as equals and feeling that no one is above following the rules.

    Amanda says:

    >Sherman-Williams will feel the pain of losing Piloseno for decades. Here’s why:

    The schadenfreude here is that this is an example of their brand name *already* being forgotten (or misremembered):

    It’s Sherwin-Williams.

    Thank you for helping bring them down and condemning them to be the BetaMax of the paint industry. As you say, they lost out on a chance to have long-term future influence because of some ‘policy.’

    Chris A. says:

    Florida paints will never be able to compete with Sherwin Williams on any scale. Period!!!
    I worked for SW for 25 years in the Florida market and SW is the leader in Florida. Tell me about another paint company who’s stock is trading at over 740 dollars a share?
    SW my have made a mistake but to say that they are going to loose millions is a bit much!!

    Steve says:

    It is completely crazy to me that Sherwin Williams has not commented publicly on this. There is no excuse for what they did, losing themselves an enormous amount of (FREE!) marketing to an enormous demographic. I feel for his bosses who supported and encouraged him to take it higher to the uptight corporate types who could not understand what a good thing they had. Should be a lesson to all corporate culture companies. Still can’t believe they dug in their heels, at this point is it just stubbornness/embarrassment? I will never understand

    Douglas says:

    I worked for Sherwin-Williams full-time while I was in college studying architecture in the 90s, I was a successful salesman and designer for my store. I too had managers who wanted to help me get to HQ in Cleveland, and I too was snubbed. I remember distinctly their styling dept lead saying, ‘we generally only hire people from such-n-such college, or people with so-n-so degree’. That was the end of our conversation, in the end of me working there shortly after.

    Michael Grimm says:

    I was recently fired from Sherwin Williams for Gross Misconduct as well. I was the one and only driver to stick with them throughout Covid and lockdowns, and because i stopped to eat during my route, on occasion, they considered me a thief of time. No warning, no being taken aside to tell me I was doing something wrong. One day I was pulled aside and suspended without pay. Nobody would answer any of my questions during this time. Then, 1 week later, I received a call that I was terminated. The HR person also would not answer any of my questions.
    I am a husband and father of 2 young children.
    Try loading and unloading thousands of pounds of paint, by hand, every day and see if you get hungry….I’ll bet you do 🙂
    Happy Holidays!!!

    Mike says:

    What’s interesting to me is I have worked at a few companies that have encouraged employees to take a break from their work 1-2 hours a week to be creative or research an interest. Not only does it make the job fun, but it keeps you from becoming a stale designer and that translates directly to the company’s design. These are large companies willing to pay a small amount in the grand scheme of things that will directly translate to revenue for them. For example, my patent developed on company time made me feel great but they’ll reap all the financial benefits for years. SW could have easily created a separate social account and given him a few hours a week to promote cool ideas… Few dollars spent on great advertising.

    Franck lefevre says:

    I red this story when it was published. And I am was so frustrated and upset. They did fired him for wrong reason
    First of all accusing him of taking the company products home and tony did say that product he buy with his employees discount
    So can sherwin Williams as a big giant company could not verify that via investigation
    Secondly he was offer them a chance to advertise for free
    Thirdly supervisor or other employees have been jealous of his talent they snitch him out so they are so happy because he got
    Now they been more jealous because tony because the internet talk and over million followers example to learn from. Losers

    Chris says:

    You are all missing the big picture. The construction industry doesn’t care about this story at all. Money hungry contractors just care about the bottom line. And as I sit here on site, the painters are using Sherwin Williams. Honestly, it’s the most popular by a landslide.

    Nothing will ever come of this.

    Kay Murphy says:

    SW makes great paint, but doesn’t have a good concept of what makes a good employee. They overlooked making a woman that worked for years manager of our local store and hired someone who knew nothing of the customers that used that store. Instead they hired a college graduate that she was suppose to train. I have to walk these inexperienced people that come and go now that she is gone through what I need. I know more about their products than they do.

    Genise says:

    I am sorry but Florida Paint is the best.. This company I have known for years and it’s basic off of family orient and has the best paint and also in sales. The owners has a heart of gold. Listen if you want the best paint and also pay less go to Florida paint. They treat you like family. They knew what they were doing when they hiring the gentlemen. They seen talent and they went for it Congratulations on you joining the team of Florida Paint !! Number1 paint store

    Renegadetrader says:

    I was stunned when I heard SW actually fired him. Their marketing team definitely needs a reconfigurement.

    Sarah says:

    Sherwin-Williams is also the company that terminated its Color Consultation program (and hundreds of employees) during COVID (on Easter Monday, no less) and then bragged about their revenues. Their short-sightedness is appalling.

    Genise Boney says:

    Listen if you want the best paint and price. Than you should know it’s Florida Paint. Sherwin Williams will never have anything on Florida paint. They sales ,their rating and prices is number one every time you walk into the store they always greet you with welcome and Florida Paint store they are ready to assist you. Florida paint gives everybody a chance. They know talent when they see it and they did good in hiring this gentlemen. Congratulations. !! Sherwin Williams lost a good thing but now he is the right place now Florida Paint always number 1 !! You want paint go to Florida Paint so stop hating on FP

    Anonymous says:

    I worked for SW for 8 years. I started as a part time driver and worked my way up to management. SW treats their employees very poorly. No matter how well you do your job it could have always been done better and everyone is replaceable. We would constantly get threatening emails from our higher ups. The big timers in the company treat store employees like they’re peasants. I quit about 9 years ago and have not regretted it once!!!

    Henry Kobasky says:

    I’m a young (27 years old) home owner, currently in the process of repainting my interior walls, beginning with the bedrooms. I was perfectly capable of choosing some fantastic colors WITHOUT the help of some jackass “influencer.”

    What person with a brain needs a supposedly “hip” influencer to get excited about picking out a damn color to put on their walls?

    Wilkerson's own says:

    When people make money they rarely evolve. The Management is what is screwing over SW. If you’re not at the very least entertaining offers or even listening to employees on the ground level, you get a reputation of being a business dinosaur. But with a stock at that price (170 a share) maybe they feel like there’s no need help or ideas. At the end of the day rules are just that ,rules Whistleblowers just wanna keep their jobs no matter how it may help or hurt the business in which they’re employed to protect

    Barbra' Mitchell says:

    While I read the tic toc article about promoting his gift and in the midst of reading thought what a fantastic way of elevation and was dismayed when Sherwin “Watch Dry” Williams didn’t see the evolving of their company growth. “a child shall lead”

    tmorris says:

    I’m an old homeowner. And I think you missed the point. There are some people who don’t give a rat sass about color. White is white is white. On the other hand? There are people like this kid, who see the art in how colors mix together and he wants to share his art.

    Ronald Levy says:

    The PR challenge and imperative for Sherwin Williams is to show how thousands of employees are doing BETTER for themselves and their families in money and happiness by helping Sherwin Williams do better for customers and employees.

    All these negative comments are on what Sherwin Williams did TO an employee who made Tik Toks on company time but a bigger mistake for a company is not showing what the company does FOR employees who are above average in using their intelligence and working time to make the company and its employees more successful.

    For employees to KNOW the truth it’s important for a company to COMMUNCATE motivating good news. Who tooteth not their own horns, their horns may not get tooted!

    Sue says:

    Bottom line is that paint is about CREATIVITY and the feeling paint colors elicit. It is the environments in which we live and whether it’s at home or work colors evokes emotion. It can create calm or attract your attention and this is the very foundation of what SW is selling!! Otherwise paint is a practical covering for walls which could be just plain paint void of color.
    Calling this a mistake is a gross understatement!!
    This faux pas would be compared to Disney World hiring accountants to be the creative teams! Just didn’t match up! Pay attention to your audience SW.
    The reprimand given on this young mans firing is a gross miscarriage of talent, desire and enthusiasm for your product and you can’t teach that!
    BIG MISTAKE😡 I will look up Florida paints as a company and check them out. By the way
    I have been a SW Purchaser for about 40 years and it matters how companies treat their employees more than you know. Remember marketing 101…, it takes ten new customers to make up for the one loyal one you loose. Seems to me the person that made this decision needs a reboot in conflict resolution and how to turn lemons into lemonade!
    Good luck Tony Piloseno in your new arena of creativity and than you Florida Paint!

    bryan M banks says:

    I tried Sherwin Williams 2 times. Good paint. Absolutely horrible business and customer service. I bought 10 cases of caulk. Went back to another store for paint. Was treated like a peasant because they hadn’t seen me before. I told the manager hold on I don’t need that gallon. I went to my work truck and carried in all 10 cases of caulk and returned them. I wouldn’t buy Sherwin Williams paint if it was $1 a gallon. Horrible company. So glad this kid got famous for this, and another chunk from Sherwin. Management might not care. But those stock holders sure will!

    Chris says:

    This story will have zero impact on Sherwin Williams!!
    No one really cares if this guy got fired. It’s impossible to say they will loose millions in sales by firing this guy. You keep pushing a non story that will be forgotten in a month.

    Julia says:

    It’s been over a month Chris, people still remember a small minded mean spirited paint company tried to screw over on of their most vocal supporters, I sent them a email telling exactly what I thought and let them know our family will never buy their paint again. And I’ll send one to Tonys new boss, it seems Tony ended up dodging a bullet while sipping the lemonade he made out of the lemons sw gave him. People don’t like it when good people are screwed over, you might not remember but people that care for others do.

    Oliver says:

    This guy bullied me into self harm in middle school and was a little shit so honestly don’t care if he got fired ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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