Major Paint Retailer Fires Employee For Understanding the Value of Earned Media.
Painting is never fun. First you obsess over the colors because once the walls are dry, you can’t click to change. If you DIY it, the first few brush strokes feel cathartic, but then it inevitably turns into a long, tedious, and potentially messy backache of a project. Painting is a brutal endeavor, which is why pros charge a LOT (a recent quote to redo our exterior trim left my chin on the floor).
So when a staid brand like Sherwin-Williams started to attract millions of eyeballs with an immensely popular paint-mixing TikTok page, what happens? The employee who showed the initiative and social media savvy to garner viral attention from a younger demographic – essentially what every brand in the world craves – gets fired.
Anthony “Tony” Piloseno had been working at the Sherwin-Williams store in Athens, Ohio, for three years as a senior sales associate while attending Ohio State. “I loved the job immediately,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I love how colors blend together, what goes with what… It’s hard to explain, but I really enjoy mixing paint. I like showing what stuff it can do.”
He began recording and posting his paint mixing to the account, @tonesterpaints. There aren’t many users creating videos about the process of mixing paints (which is surprisingly mesmerizing), so Tony’s account was niche enough to draw people in. By the sixth video, Piloseno had garnered over a million views. And then?
This enterprising young man created a pitch deck to show Sherwin-Williams how it could leverage the TikTok platform and appeal to a younger, hipper consumer base. He first presented it to his manager and a sales rep at the store, who loved the idea. He was then given a contact in the marketing department of the company’s headquarters, but after several attempts to garner interest, his efforts went nowhere.
Until … after a corporate investigation of his social media account, they sacked him, accusing him of “wasting properties [and] facilities,” and “seriously embarrass[ing] the Company or its products.” What they really fired him for, which makes this tale so twisted, was figuring out how to advertise without costing the company a single dollar.
It was organic. It worked.
And all it needed was the support of marketing leadership to really take off and energize the brand.
Clearly, companies are missing the point of adjusting to the world of digital and social marketing. Younger generations look to popular social media platforms to influence their spending. Which means if a brand can figure out how to take advantage of social media platforms like TikTok, they can grow far beyond their direct consumer base and pull new customers into the category.