Tony Piloseno has close to two million followers on TikTok, and his soothing paint-mixing videos have put the spotlight on a small local paint manufacturing company.
One man’s loss is another man’s gain — or in this instance, one national company’s loss is a local company’s big gain.
Tony Piloseno was just an average guy working for a national paint manufacturing company in Ohio last year, making videos of himself mixing paint colors, adding some music and posting them on the TikTok social media platform. @Tonesterpaints amassed quite a fanbase with the trend — not only on TikTok but also Instagram and YouTube — but when the employer discovered what he was doing on company time, he was let go.
His videos, while broadening the company’s potential consumer reach, were against company policy.
Don Strube Jr., who owns Florida Paints with his brother, Rick Strube, caught wind of the fired paint enthusiastic — whom he calls an artist — tracked him down on LinkedIn and arranged a Zoom meeting with the local company’s marketing team.
Don Strube knew the kind of attention a young, creative person like Piloseno — who happens to have 1.6 million TikTok followers — could bring to the paint manufacturing company that offers products conducive to weathering the Florida climate.
“I had seen some of his videos in the past,” Don Strube said. “I like the artistry behind it. On our side of the business, we think of paint from a protective side, and it’s really decorative. And it’s obviously what Tony is doing, he’s an artist, his canvas is paint. He’s creating color through a unique medium.”
After the virtual meeting, Don Strube invited Piloseno to Florida for a brief escape from the cold Ohio landscape and to introduce him to Florida Paints, its employees and Strube’s own family in Windermere. Putting everyone together that weekend proved to be the perfect recipe for expanding the firm’s marketing and digital platform — and Piloseno was offered a sales associate position at the Orlando location in December.
“Tony loves the industry,” Don Strube said. “He’s been working in the industry for a few years, and he’s got a passion — not only for color but all things paint. I think he’s a great catch as an employee, even if he wasn’t doing weird stuff on video.
“We have Tony Piloseno as a day job at Florida Paints, then at night he’s Tonester,” he said.
The company was so glad to have Tonester Paints that a special color studio was created just for Piloseno.
“What Tony’s done is create brand awareness,” Don Strube said. “Overnight, it’s been millions, tens of millions of views of Tony’s videos with the Florida Paints brand in. From a pure business standpoint, it’s helped brand awareness. … Paint is not something people put a lot of thought into … until they paint their house and a year later it doesn’t look that great.”
The fact that this local paint company has gained national attention says a lot about our culture, Don Strube said.
“It’s thinking outside the box,” he said. “We’re very passionate about what we do, but we want to have fun doing it. We want to do things differently.”
In rural Athens, Ohio, business can have its slow moments in the paint industry, Piloseno said. To pass the time between customers at the Sherwin-Williams store where he worked, he started filming himself showing the process of tinting a gallon of paint. He added some color and some music and posted the videos online.
“The videos took off immediately,” he said. “I think my sixth TikTok video had over a million views.”
He brought his creativity with him to Florida.
Piloseno’s imagination took over, and he started mixing in more than just paint — items such as oranges and blueberries, coffee grounds, Orbeez gel beads, and the fluid from glow sticks found their way into paint cans.
“The different colors of objects tinting paint was a cool concept,” he said. “Probably No. 1 was the blueberry one because that caught the most fire. … I’m just basically freestyling it to see what I can do to create a pleasing color.”
“He won’t admit it, but he has a really good eye,” Don Strube said. “He knows the color pigments and how they relate to one another.
And that makes us unique and different. Other companies use a spectrometer; we create colors by eye. I’ve been in the industry my whole life — learning how raw umber would mix with chromium blue. It’s artistry. … It’s matching a color and knowing how much black, how much brown, how much yellow to add. And Tony has that.”
It's impressive to see the final product, Don Strube said of the videos. On Saturday, Piloseno made a new one with a vibrant teal color and added the song “Ocean Man,” which was used in “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.” In just two days, the video amassed more than five million views.
Color and music are two triggers for people’s emotions, and the Tonester’s creative use of the two together is palpable.
“The TikTok audience is younger, but one person said that it reminded them of watching “SpongeBob” with their grandfather,” Don Strube said. “There’s emotion there.”
“I try to touch on and execute in my videos — color and music together really can bring up past emotions,” Piloseno said. “That’s also something that I try to portray in my content as well.”
He said he was pleasantly surprised at the result of the mixed paints on Saturday and the richness of the teal. He added that colors can be affected by the type of base paint used, and for this one he used an accent base that is made to bring out deep, rich colors that are appealing to the eye.
On the flip side, Piloseno admits he has created some disappointing colors that basically looked like mud.
Many customers walking into Florida Paints recognize the TikTok-famous employee. In addition to paint-mixing videos, Piloseno has posted videos on color theory and how having certain colors in a room can affect one’s mood.
“(One customer) was suffering from depression,” he said. “She wanted to get green for … rejuvenation purposes, almost like a sage green. She also got pink because one of my previous videos explained how pink can make you feel calm.”
THE CRAFT BEER OF PAINT
In two months, Piloseno has made about 100 videos with Florida Paints. His goal is to make one every day.
“Everyone is going to have to purchase paint at some point in their lives, so my true goal in everything is to market paint and color to a younger audience that will become future paint users,” Piloseno said. “They may not necessarily be homeowners now … but (the goal is) to create content they will enjoy (until that time).”
Don Strube understands where Piloseno is coming from and supports his philosophy.
“For me, the moral of the story is support the little guy; I am spending more time at Ace Hardware than at Home Depot,” Don Strube said. “Our competitors have stores all over the place. … but if you want a color matched to how you feel, it doesn’t have to be on the computer. We’re like the craft beer of paint. We can customize.”
Florida Paints has given Piloseno his own line of paints and is on the verge of launching the Tonester website, tonesterpaints.com.
How does Piloseno feel about having his name on paint cans?
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s something that I essentially dreamed about. This was my whole plan from the start of it — to take a different route marketing-wise in the paint industry and try to reach a different audience through content they would enjoy.”