How Companies are Listening (and Changing) Because of Your Tweets

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When Jennifer Ouellette read about a high-end line of thin-framed sunglasses playfully named “Anorexxxy” earlier this month, she was not only outraged, but — as the mom of a recovering anorexic daughter — personally offended. So the Californian did something about it, rallying her social-media troops to swarm designer Thierry Lasry with tweets and Facebook messages until, lo and behold, Lasry announced a product name change, effective immediately.

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“We never wanted to upset anyone,” read a statement from the designer, released on Monday. “However, it seems like we recently have with this name so we’ve decided to rename this style. The frame will, from now on, be stamped on the inside left temple ‘AXXXEXXXY.’”

Though the company isn't attributing its name-change decision to Ouellette’s social-media campaign (“We have no idea who the people behind all those messages are,” a Lasry spokesperson tells Yahoo Shine), one thing is clear: It made a difference.

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“THIS is why I want to build a Twitter Army,” Ouellette posted, along with Lasry’s statement, on Facebook on Monday. “This was a handful of parents and others — no more than 15 people — who did this.” In addition to targeting the designer, the women, an assemblage of moms of children with eating disorders and people who simply support Ouellette’s cause, wrote a barrage of negative comments on the Amazon third-party vendor page (not affiliated with Lasry) that sells the sunglasses. Their statements included, “The name of this products is absolutely unacceptable,” and “Why would anyone want to wear sunglasses named after a killer disease?” As of Monday, the offending name had been removed there, as well, replaced with the descriptor “thin sunglasses.”

“I consider myself a watchdog, but also an activist and advocate," Ouellette tells Yahoo Shine. Her crusade is a response to her daughter Kinsey, now 19 and the youngest of her four children, developing anorexia two years ago. That's when the already-thin teen dropped more than 30 pounds in just three months. “You’re just like, I don’t know how we got here, where my child will cut grapes into such small pieces that it takes her two hours to eat them,” she says, recalling the fear she felt then. “You see that your child could die.”

Now, after extensive treatment that included partial hospitalization and behavior therapy, Kinsey is in “deep recovery,” attending college in Arizona. “We were very, very lucky,” her mom admits. “I have friends whose children have died. So things like [the Anorexxxy sunglasses] are incredibly hurtful. It’s mocking something that’s a deadly disease.”

Her small but vocal campaign isn't the first to force big companies to bow to criticism — in fact, it’s a trend that’s really been picking up steam. On Friday, teen fashion brand Hollister quickly removed a photo of a model from its Facebook and Twitter pages after people complained that her legs were “too skinny” and “emaciated.” This latest blunder took place not all that long after parent company Abercrombie & Fitch suffered from plummeting sales amid relentless criticism of CEO Mike Jeffries, who had unapologetically called its company “exclusionary.” Yoga gear maker Lululemon’s co-founder Chip Wilson, meanwhile, resigned in December after unending outcries about his comments on women’s bodies, while, earlier this month, Target apologized for digitally altering a model’s thighs to horrific proportions after hearing a slew of complaints. Other recent apologists have included Coke, Unilever, and Kellogg’s.

Ouellette, who runs a pharmacy technician training program at Kaplan College in San Diego, tells Yahoo Shine that these kinds of results are exactly why she wants to keep Twitter and Facebook momentum going when issues like the Anorexxxy label arise. But, she laments, it can sometimes be difficult to convince people in her age range (she's 49) to start tweeting. “Many of my compatriots are sitting at home banging out letters on their IBM Selectrics,” she says. “But social is clearly the way to get yourself heard.”

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