What Code to Use: QR Codes v. MS Tag

Dave LawsonNot surprisingly, there continues to be a lot of discussion in the direct digital marketing industry surrounding what kind of 2D code is the best to use for mobile campaigns. Here at The Lunch Pail, we’ve talked a lot about 2D codes. As the debate goes on about which code is best (QR barcodes vs. Microsoft Tags), here are some thoughts and additional insight.
When it comes to QR codes vs. Microsoft Tag, I feel there is space for both. In fact, the situational usage for each can actually determine the level of success of an effort or over time. As we’ve said before there are advantages to considering either technology. Costs are currently a moot point, which is nice for purposes of comparison here.

Pure technical details aside, with MS Tag you are working with a proprietary technology and environment that has more control over the overall experience – from smooth app download, to scan and delivery, to digital destination, to scan-side analytics. From the perspective of a marketer addressing communication challenges, the MS Tag features are desirable. With QR, you have the open-source option (which is still owned by Denso), which is more widely accessible by a much larger set of scanning apps and more code generators as well. With QR, there are a few options that deliver fairly smooth downloads and analytics post-scan, but you do sacrifice some accuracy in location and other app-side details. As you decide, you need to consider if those features are important to you.

Both technologies work quite well from a functional standpoint. Both are also fairly easy to adopt. Regardless of your industry (retail, hospitality, healthcare, etc.), make sure your 2D-code selection is “on-brand” or appropriate for your brand – then use it and stick with it. Once you begin to cultivate your customers’ awareness, they will get the necessary app for their phone. And they will use it to taste your marketing goodness.

Neither 2D option will take you to the mobile “right message, right place, right time” promised land without a well-thought-out implementation. The best approach is one that drives consumers to act – one that educates them to get the right app for their device, perform the scan, and engage in the correct digital experience. That experience needs to be specific, highly relevant, and an experience that rewards them – the consumer’s investment of time pays returns as they access a valuable marketing experience or offering.

So, which technology do you prefer?


  1. Posted March 22, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    We run a website called Kimtag, which is a connection hub. We started offering QR codes a month or so ago because they link in quite nicely. When we introduced them, we offered both the MS tag and the QR code. We’ve stopped offering the MS version. Nobody wanted to use it. Two problems. Firstly, MS are fussier about how you can use the tag. Secondly, QR codes in many countries are still not well recognised or understood but QR codes are significantly more recognised than MS tags. From a marketing perspective, nobody wanted to make their life harder !

    • Posted March 23, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for that info Mike and the introduction to your services. User stories like this are really useful and can likely help others considering types of codes to offer themselves (any additional detail on total numbers would be great). Based on my limited understanding of your services, this comment confirms the thinking above as well. It sounds like the two things you ID are the controlled environment vs open and the wider use and potential recognition that feeds more generators and readers for QR, especially globally (my initial commentary was primarily US focused and geographic considerations for code deployment absolutely are high on the list of things to think about). It reads that the clear choice for your users to brand themselves and market their personal and business social connections is QR. I did want to clarify my position on the conclusion of your comment. I can’t say that brand marketers would be making their lives harder by using an MS Tag, in fact, I could argue that it actually simplifies things and makes the known end-user experience more easily predictable to better guarantee a positive outcome. My main point is that at this time, marketers should not eliminate either from their consideration set prior to launching an initiative but once they do make the selection, stick with it and assure the execution delivers. Thanks again for sharing this- best of luck in your newly launched endeavor!

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  1. […] What Code to Use: QR Code v MS Tag […]

  2. […] created fragmentation on one side and a calming uniformity on the other. As we described in our QR vs. MS Tag blog post, requiring a tag-specific reader reduces the number of people that could readily […]

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