A Practical Small Business Use of 2D Codes

After one of my presentations to the travel and hospitality industry this week, I was asked for more information on how QR codes work.  More specifically, how can small businesses use them to bring in more business and increase profitability?

2011.1.13 tagv2

This post is my response.

This afternoon my mailbox had the usual armload of catalogs that I typically toss into the recycle bin before I step back into my office.  That’s when I noticed a customized Microsoft Tag on one of them (above). From one dashboard professional email signatures can be quickly updated for the entire company.

Just like QR codes, MS Tags are two-dimensional codes (2D codes). MS tags presently have an advantage that I’m told is coming to QR codes.  They can be customized to include a company logo as in this example. My first thought was I am probably 1 in a 1000 that noticed this. Nevertheless, I applaud this company’s effort to use them to bring multi-media content to their marketing collateral.

Let’s take a closer look.

Your Marketing Message

This catalog evidently arrived due to my being a Licensed Landscape Architect (my former business). Landscape architects enhance many types of outdoor environments, with recreational areas being one of them.

The cover of this catalog clearly (and creatively) communicates the message of play, which is the focus of Playworld Systems.

2011.1.13 Coverv2

Do your customers understand your focus – your core competency? Take a moment to click on the image above to read how this company positions itself – for children, artists, families, and entrepreneurs.

It’s nicely done, don’t you think?  BTW, that image is the best I could do with my iPhone.

2D Codes

I honestly believe this is going to be a breakout year for 2D codes.  While MS tags offer customization for embedding a logo, I believe QR codes will be the initial frontrunners because they are readily identifiable – like this QR code that links to my Facebook page.

Download this app and you can scan it right from your computer.
Getting Started

99% of your customers have no idea what 2D codes are all about, which is why I believe the more common QR codes are the place to start.  Even though they offer more, MS tags simply do not jump off the page the way QR codes do. QR codes have a technological look that is more easily recognized – and therefore, will be more likely to engage the early adopters.

As an example, here is a more common MS tag before customization. Unless you have studied them as I have, it would be difficult to make the connection between this image and the more highly customized MS tags that Playworld Systems is using.

2010.12.29 MS Tag

How They Can Be Used

Notwithstanding the aforementioned conditions, Playworld Systems uses the MS tags exactly as they should – to help their prospects and customers make more informed decisions. And, to their credit, they carefully inform their users how to use them – directing them to the Microsoft app that is necessary to read them.

Here’s a screenshot from their catalog showing two products. To make an informed decision, you simply scan the respective tags and watch the videos.

2011.1.13 Two TagsV2

How cool is this?

Now you can better understand the merits of the two similar pieces of equipment to make an educated decision.  Also, as I look at this page again, I can imagine they may have chosen MS tags specifically to have them blend in with the other content.

If you want to learn more about QR codes and MS tags, I wrote an extensive article as a guest post for Social Media Examiner that will be published on February 7th.  Mark your calendar.

In the meantime, if you want to learn more now, just use the Google search box on this blog – search for QR codes and you’ll find several articles on this topic.

Please leave a comment below to share what you are thinking? How do you envision using 2D codes to enhance the experience of engaging what your small business offers with your prospects and customers.

One final thought. Given that Microsoft’s Bing search engine powers Facebook search, it is entirely possible that MS tags could be the dominant 2D code player.  Time will tell.

And don’t forget that all of this technology is FREE – and therefore, it is ideally suited to your small business.

Feel free to share this with your friends by clicking on the Facebook Like button below, leave a comment, or considering subscribing to the feed. 

Enjoy your weekend,  Jeff

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  1. Thank you, Jeff! I first learned about QR codes and have been looking for a way to intelligently use them when Mailchimp came out with the Pyow iPhone app and thought it could be VERY useful in the right situation. I haven’t quite found it yet, but am eager to try.


    Have a great night!


  2. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for highlighting Playworld’s catalog and the MS Tag. I’m the CEO of the ad agency that worked with them on this piece. We agree that Playworld is doing a great job! It’s exciting to be entering a world of technology where customers can invite the message and the details into his or her life to learn more.


  3. Brad – Thanks for the link to MailChimp Pyow. I subscribe to their blog but missed that one. They really are on top of their game.

    That’s one feature I did not mention is the tracking capabilities for QR codes. I’m thinking of how I can use them to track response rates of different marketing pieces.

    So many possibilities, huh? 🙂


  4. Ellen – Thanks for checking in. I’m always impressed with companies that are actively monitoring their brands – or in this case, your clients’ brands.

    I’m curious about how difficult is was to customize those MS tags. I downloaded MS’s 50 page PDF and was reading about all of the possibilities – it is truly amazing.

    I’m hoping you will tell me it’s not as difficult as it looks. 🙂

    Best regards,


  5. Hi Jeff,

    I agree with your observations. I’ve just returned from the PPAI EXPO, the Promotional Professionals premier event held annually in Las Vegas. There was an “explosion” of QR’s and a few TAGS. I’ve done extenive research in this area and agree that TAGS will become the standard. Last June I actually embroidered 200+ shirts with TAGS as part of a conference give away. I use them extensively.

  6. Bruce –

    I’m wondering if we can glean some lessons from Betamax vs VHS. Clearly, MS Tags are higher quality – but like Sony Betamax – they are also limited by one type of technology – the MS reader.

    The key will be which ones gain mainstream acceptance and achieve that critical mass. Now with AT&T’s proprietary codes, it may get messy before we see a clear winner.


  7. Abby Wolfe says:

    Interesting observation, but you could have said the same thing about PDF ten years ago – new technology striving for broad adoption and only one reader, Adobe Acrobat Reader. Look where it is today. 😉

  8. Abby – Good point. That’s what many are saying – often using the analogy of Sony BetaMax and VHS … which may be before your time.

    Time will tell, but it sure is going to be exciting for the users of the technology like you and me. 🙂


  9. I have a small business printing on chocolate. We have been printing QR Codes and MS Tags on chocolate. We have done a couple of orders for MS to promote their tags. If you are looking to really knock the socks off of a prospect, put your code or tag on chocolate. We are also doing chocolate code or tag business cards. The tag and all infomation printed on a chocolate business card.

  10. Images on Chocolate – And where do we find you? 🙂


  11. Steve Zagata says:

    I agree that these are going to catch on soon. The QR codes as well as using your phone as your credit card are great new technologies. Thanks for the great run down on how QR’s are being used.

  12. Thanks Steve!