Mobile Marketing with 2d Codes

This article by Jeff Korhan, now updated, first appeared on Social Media Examiner.

Consumer behaviors are changing, and mobile technologies are among the predominant influences affecting the shift.

More than 50% of all local web searches take place with mobile devices.

This spells opportunity for businesses that have a mobile marketing strategy.

Does your business have a mobile strategy?

Success with Mobile Marketing

Success with mobile marketing starts with understanding your customers and then implementing an appropriate strategy. Although some marketers are known to embrace new technologies without first considering their full impact on the consumer.

This has proved to be true with QR codes.  Notwithstanding the buzz surrounding QR codes’ ineffective applications have chilled some of the enthusiasm for their use as mobile marketing triggers. To help solve this problem, technology giant Microsoft, creators of the MS tag technology that competes with QR, has stepped forward.

Microsoft realizes QR codes and MS tags, in addition to other technologies, all serve distinct purposes. Collectively, they are an ecosystem of mobile triggers that offer choices for marketers and consumers alike. So the logical solution was to bring them together into one reliable platform.

The MS Tag Manager makes it easier for marketers to use QR, MS tag, and other mobile technologies not just to reach consumers, but also to brand the experience and gather rich data for delivering even more favorable experiences in the future.

To be more specific, you can now generate QR codes and MS tags with the Tag Manager, and also track a number of consumer actions associated with the use of those 2D codes.

This is just the beginning, as there are plans to integrate additional mobile technologies, with the first being NFC—Near Field Communication, a technology used for digital payments and other secure mobile activities.

Needless to say, if you have not been considering mobile marketing, these developments may change your mind.

If you are new to 2D tags, you will find these articles especially helpful: How QR Codes Can Grow Your Business and 5 Best Practices for a Successful QR Code Marketing Campaign.

Technology Triggers the Mobile Experience

Now that you can use the Tag Manager software to create MS tags and QR codes, and use the Microsoft Tag Reader to scan or read either 2D code, which should you choose?

According to Elliott Lemenager, social media manager for Microsoft, the key is to recognize that both are just triggers for digitally linking to mobile devices to activate a favorable consumer experience.

Is the QR code more likely to be scanned by your community because it resembles the familiar linear barcodes, or is a branded MS tag more likely to engage a prospective customer?

All of these technologies are vehicles to connect the digital with the physical world. Each can be used separately or in combination. For example, QR could be used to deliver discount coupons, and Tag for offering a branded link to marketing materials.

Why not test the response rate by using both in your next mobile marketing campaign?

The MS Tag Implementation Guide and video below show how easy it is to create either of these 2D codes using the Microsoft Tag Manager.

What else could be coming to this platform?

Use your imagination—anything digital. Think about what’s on your mobile device now: music, video, images, voice and games. These are all part of the mobile ecosystem, and therefore present opportunities for marketers and consumers to better communicate and interact.

What will work best for your business will depend upon a number of factors, with two of the most relevant being location and social context.

The Intersection of Social, Local, and Mobile

Consumers have embraced mobile for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is convenience. What is convenient is typically used more frequently, and when it is mobile, in a variety of different contexts.

opportunity ahead

This context is the intersection of social networking, local-based marketing and mobile technologies—something that is proving to be a marketing sweet spot.


Mobile is local – something that should interest every small business that wants to reach and interact with consumers when and where they are most receptive, and in ways that they expect.

One of the keys to location is that it is unique. What matters to consumers in a smaller town may or may not align with the needs of those in an urban community, even when they share otherwise similar demographics.

For example, if you live and work in a large city, having a nice car that is subject to theft, accidents and other environmental conditions may not be a consideration. A local business will know this, but it may not be obvious to a business that is simply trying to be local.


According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the social version of anything is more engaging and will outperform nonsocial. If he is correct, then the location aspect of mobile marketing is even more relevant if your friends are involved.

One thing is clear: There is a reason why Facebook Chief Technology Officer Bret Taylor recently stated that within the next three years, nearly every Facebook employee will be working on mobile.


Mobile has the advantage of using social context to enhance searchGoogle Search, plus Your World is one example of how this will work.

The challenge is to determine what information is most relevant to the success of your business. Is it the location of your prospective customers or what they are sharing with their friends in that location?

As a consumer, where and when you are, and whom you are with, are all that matters. Each and every one of us is the center of our own universe.

That’s the opportunity for marketers—to learn more about what is central to their customers and how their business can become integral to those experiences.

The Consumer Experience Is Ultimately What Matters

There is an axiom in business that if you choose not to measure something, you are saying it is not important. Everyone likes to count profits, but measuring the consumer behaviors that contribute to profits is what will encourage their growth. One method for accomplishing this is a strategic use of 2D codes.

mobility on ipad
Mobile marketing should always consider consumer context. Image: iStockphoto.

Using Tag Manager, you can create MS tags and QR codes that will track a number of mobile actions, with all of them being free. For example, you can track the location of your customer by zip code, or longitude and latitude. This you can accomplish on your own.

However, if you are willing to enlist the help of a developer, you can also track more specific real-time actions, such as scans by the type of device. The investment will be modest, not unlike that of periodically upgrading your website.

To take advantage of all of these tracking capabilities, the URL of your 2D code has to lead to a link on the web or a native app on a mobile device. You only have to add a few additional characters to your URL when generating the code. When that code is scanned, the mobile device shares the desired information.

Of course, the user device has to have geolocation activated. Additionally, the user must be using the MS Tag Reader when scanning the code. This will clearly not be a problem if the code is an MS tag. However, because there are many QR code readers, this presents a problem.

Microsoft clearly has a marketing challenge to encourage more widespread use of the Tag Manager platform. It is going to be an uphill battle, but it can certainly be won.

To be clear, gathering data on the actions of consumers with 2D codes requires generating that code with a service that offers code management capabilities.

Thus, you have to entrust your codes to someone, and this is one reason why an established company like Microsoft has a shot at building a platform that becomes a destination for mobile marketers.

One of the cardinal rules of marketing is you have to meet your customers where they are, and customers today are increasingly mobile.

The new playground for marketers is social, local and mobile, and a successful mobile marketing strategy using 2D codes will place your business there in real time.

What do you think?

Is your business ready to play?

Leave a comment below and share this with your community using any of the share buttons below – or on the little red bar at the bottom of this page.  

Until next time,  Jeff

Selected images from iStockPhoto

5 Best Practices for a Successful QR code Marketing Campaign

Are you wondering how to use QR codes to enhance your marketing?

Just getting started with QR codes? Scan this code for a comprehensive article on the basics - How to Use QR codes to Grow Your Business

This article (now updated) first appeared in Social Media Examiner where I am a regular contributor.  It’s another great resource to help you with your small business marketing. 

Why QR codes?

QR and other two-dimensional (2D) codes can be readily integrated into your current business marketing practices to bring your online content to a mobile audience in real time.

In North America, QR and 2D codes are still a novelty. For this reason, early adopters are eagerly putting them into practice to get to market first and capitalize on the trend. As a result, some embarrassing and costly mistakes are being made.

This article will help you learn from those mistakes and develop best practices for creating a favorable user experience that serves both you and your community well.

If you need a refresher on the basics of QR, this comprehensive article gives practical information on how QR codes can grow your business.

#1- Plan Your QR code Campaign Strategy

To create a successful QR code campaign, it is essential to understand your target audience, have clear objectives, and provide useful and valuable incentives to deliver a favorable user experience.

Here are some ideas and considerations to help you get started building your strategy.

Understand Your Target Audience

  • Do they need instructions about the use of QR codes?
  • Do they need to use a specific type of code reader?
  • Will the codes be scanned indoors or outside?

Have Clear Objectives – Here are some possibilities: 

  • Grow your email list
  • Increase Likes for your Facebook page
  • Increase your blog subscribers

Provide Useful and Valuable Incentives – Here are some options:

  • Enter a contest to win
  • Deliver a discount coupon
  • Download a free eBook
  • Talk to a live agent
  • Take a virtual tour
  • Demonstrate a product or service with video
  • Download a free mp3
  • Get VIP access

Are you trying to grow your email list or get more Likes for your Facebook page? Then you should always provide an incentive, especially when using scannable codes.

As more businesses fail to deliver value with their QR code campaigns, consumers in general will become reluctant to scan them in the future. This will make it increasingly necessary to provide clear incentives and deliver on them.

#2 – Create Quality Codes and Test Them

While there are numerous 2D code formats, the two most commonly used worldwide are QR codes and Microsoft (MS) tags. Both technologies are free, so your choice of which to use will largely depend upon your audience and other market factors.

Customized MS tag for IAMS pet products


Customized QR code for American Parkour by Patrick Donnelly of 2ergo


The owners of the QR code technology have elected to allow anyone free use of it. This gives QR codes the advantage of being in mainstream use around the world, and that awareness is currently working to their advantage.

The MS tag technology is proprietary, which allows for complete control over the entire user experience of generating, reading and tracking the tags. MS tags are also easily customized. One can embed images or logos into the codes using Microsoft PowerPoint.

The widespread use of the QR technology has attracted lots of developers who want to cash in on the trend. However, when technologies are open like this, there is always the risk that generally accepted standards will not be followed. QR code generators and scanners are only as good as the developers creating them, so you have to do your due diligence.

What happens if your QR codes do not work? For one thing, your reputation and brand are tarnished—just as it would be if a visitor to your website discovered multiple broken links.

I recently discovered one particular situation where a small business used QR codes in print ads in an annual publication. After trying several scanners, I could not get any of the QR codes to register. The investment of thousands of dollars on those print ads that will be in the market for a year was a costly mistake for that merchant. The lesson from this is clear—test your codes.

The following practices will maximize your effectiveness with 2D code technology:

  • Test your QR codes with multiple readers and devices.
  • Use link shorteners to create clean codes.
  • Avoid using colors that do not provide sufficient contrast—a potential problem with both QR codes and customized MS tags.
  • Make your codes at least 1″ x 1″—larger is better.
  • Provide a sufficient quiet zone around the code.
  • Avoid using 2D codes on highly reflective surfaces.
  • Consider where your codes will be scanned. One unfortunate application was in the New York City subway where there is not an Internet connection.
  • Use a quality QR code generator. My favorite is Kerem Erkan.
  • Use a quality scanner or reader. Two excellent choices are Qrafter and i-Nigma. Qrafter is unique in that it is both a code generator and scanner in one app.


Qrafter is a multi-feature QR code generator and reader


#3- Link Your Codes to Mobile-Friendly or Mobile-Optimized Sites

The most common mistake marketers make with QR codes is having them resolve to a standard web page that is not mobile-friendly. Worse yet is to have a code connect to a site with Flash video, which is not supported by the iOS devices (iPhones and iPads) that account for nearly 50% of the code readers in the world.

At a minimum, the page your code connects to should be mobile-friendly. For example, one of my codes resolves to the speaking page on my WordPress blog. A couple of taps on my iPhone enlarges it to fit nicely to my screen.

Mobile-optimized is better than mobile-friendly. According to Matthew Gallizzi of NotixTech, mobile sites are websites optimized specifically for smartphones. He suggests hosting these mobile sites on a subdomain or subdirectory of your main website, thereby giving you the SEO benefit of the traffic they bring.

Here are additional considerations when building a mobile site:

  • Build your site around the desired user experience.
  • Smaller images and solid colors load more quickly.
  • Size your links and buttons to be touch-friendly.
  • Use concise copy—sentences rather than paragraphs.
  • Use “fluid width” for horizontal and vertical orientation.
  • Test, test and test again—on iPhone, Android and Blackberry platforms.


This mobile-optimized site emphasizes incentives

Three unique mobile sites featuring specific optimized content and actions

The primary benefit of 2D codes is encouraging action. This can be accomplished by connecting to multimedia content such as video that shows a product or service in action. Other logical actions include activating a phone call or social share.

Here’s a list of the most requested features for mobile-optimized sites:

  • Tap to call links.
  • Tap to email links.
  • Tap to SMS (text).
  • Google maps integration.
  • Social sharing links.
  • Links to Yelp, Flickr and other mobile-optimized sites.
  • Links to YouTube and Vimeo (both mobile-optimized).

The cost of building a mobile-optimized site is comparable to a professionally designed and built WordPress site. If you are not ready to make that investment, there are a couple of services that allow you to create mobile sites hosted on their platforms: ShareSquare and Qrafitticodes.

#4 – Track Your Scans with Code Management Systems

QR codes and MS tags can presently track basic data, such as number of scans, with codes generated with being just one example. However, if you use a QR code management system, you can gather even richer data.

The experts I interviewed for this article collectively agree that QR code management systems are in the early stages of their development cycle. According to Roger Smolski of, “There are new QR code management systems appearing every day, but there is not yet enough user experience of these systems for a consensus on their relative merits.”

Most of these services are free for limited used, with Delivr being one that presently offers an uncomplicated experience.

Delivr provides a variety of analytics - including scans by location and time

According to Nick Martin of Microsoft, “MS tags have the capability to accurately determine the location of a scan and report that data in real time.” This creates a number of code management opportunities, such as delivering different content depending upon the location of the scan—directions to the store or a discount coupon for those in or near the store.

#5 – Deliver Value and a Favorable User Experience

Will QR codes gain more widespread use? When it comes to technology, or just about anything else, there will always be naysayers.

What is most relevant is that you as the marketer are the one who gives your codes value. They are just tools, and how you use the tool determines the value derived from it.

QR codes can serve a specific use for you, mostly as a lead generation tool. How are you doing your lead generation now? If you can use what is working for you now and make it better, more attractive or easier with QR codes, you are probably on the right track.

The video below shows how an ingenious use of QR codes helped a business in Korea to expand, and it all started with understanding the customers and building a QR code campaign strategy around their buying behaviors.


Need more?  Here are few more QR and 2d code resources:

New Ways for Using QR codes – Did you realize you can partially utilize QR codes without an Internet connect?

3 Best Practices for Generating Reliable QR codes – Watch the short 90 second video.

A Versatile QR code Generator – Qrafter’s many features are profiled.

Social Sharing with QR codes –  Literally what the title suggests.

QR codes for a Good Cause – A great success story.

QR codes Like Your Facebook Page – Here’s how to use QR to get more Facebook Likes.

A Practical Small Business Use of 2d Codes – Practical example of a small business using MS tags.

Personalizing LinkedIn – Using QR to share your LinkedIn profile.

Did this give you some new ideas for using 2d codes for your small business marketing?

Leave a comment below or share this with your social community by liking it on Facebook, or sharing with any of the share buttons below – or on the little red bar at the bottom of this page.  

Until tomorrow,  Jeff