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HealthPartners unveils offbeat ad mascot; also: Hearing Components, Northwest

Today marks the debut of a quick-read daily feature that will highlight news and trends about businesses in Minnesota. 

Editor’s note: Today marks the debut of a quick-read daily feature that will highlight news and trends about businesses in Minnesota. 

Meet Petey P. Cup. The 6-foot-11, walking urine vial is being unveiled today as the mascot of HealthPartners‘ new website and advertising campaign. The campaign appears aimed at a younger demographic that understands irony, YouTube and social networking. 

Petey P. Cup even has a Facebook profile, which says he enjoys watching “Grey’s Anatomy,” listening to Coldplay and assisting with urinalysis, drug testing and pregnancy tests. Just six friends so far, though. HealthPartners hopes he’ll have more soon. The Bloomington health care nonprofit wants the campaign to persuade 40 percent of its clinic patients to sign up for a new website service that will allow them to schedule appointments, access medical records and consult with doctors from their computer.
An Oakdale company called Hearing Components is selling a low-tech, low-cost alternative to those expensive noise-canceling headphones you see for sale at airport kiosks. The Comply Foam Tips are made from a “memory foam” originally used for military, aviation and industrial ear plugs. You fit them over your existing ear buds, then give ’em a squeeze and jam them in. The plugs seal a perfect fit in your ear canal, which blocks out background noise.

In a press release today, the company touted partnerships with headphone companies Phillips, Skullcandy and Ultimate Ears to make foam tips designed specifically to fit each brand. The Washington Post recently gave a positive review to a set of headphones from the company in its “It Came in the Mail” column: “I plugged them in at my gym, where a cacophony of blaring TVs, heavy-metal music and yakking treadmillers usually renders my iPod useless: Not only could I hear my louder rock tunes, but the dulcet strains of the Soggy Bottom Boys came through, and I didn’t have to raise the volume,” wrote Carol Sottili. Comply Foam Tips sell in three, five or 10 packs for about $15, $20 or $38 on the company’s website.

The Consumerist, a snarky and entertaining blog whose slogan is “Shoppers bite back,” doesn’t often heap praise on major companies. But Northwest Airlines earned some rare props on Friday after one of its writers was allowed to transfer a non-transferable credit voucher from a friend. The blogger, Carey Greenberg-Berger, said he asked nicely and a Northwest official said yes: “Northwest had every right to say no. We weren’t filing a complaint or referencing a violated policy. They made a business decision to help us out, one that I certainly appreciate.”

The break came after the blogger resorted to a technique the Consumerist endorses called the “executive email carpet bomb” — copying all of a company’s senior managers on a question or complaint letter. You can read the correspondence at the Consumerist blog.