Over the last year or so, you’ve probably seen funny little barcode boxes inside of magazines and maybe even on passports.
They are a new kind of 2-dimensional bar code that serve as a gateway to more information on the Web about the product. The original 1-dimensional bar code that we are all familiar with can read a limited amount of data compared to the new 2-dimensional version.
It’s this ability to store so much more data and more kinds of data that makes it versatile and appealing for marketers.
Old fashioned bar codes required expensive equipment and technology that made them inaccessible for anyone other than the company using them. These new 2-dimensional codes can be generated on the fly and read by any consumer with a smart phone app and an internet connection.
Want to read more about mobile marketing? Check these out:
QR Code or Mobi Reader?
There are two primary types of 2-D codes out in the marketplace: QR Codes (created by Japanese company Denso-Wave in 1994) and Microsoft Mobi Tags. Each type of code will direct you to the Internet where you can click around a web site or watch a video to get more information about a product. As far as the application is concerned, either one will do. But there are a few differences.
- Have a broader reach. They’ve been around since 1994. The technology is open-sourced and there are many readers to choose from.
- Are open sourced. You will gain more adaptability and flexibility, but that also means that the quality of the experience will vary.
- Used broadly in retail.
- Use proprietary Microsoft Technology—that means that you have to use their specifications to develop your tag and they can only be read by the Microsoft Tag reader. This provides you a more controlled experience from download, to scanning to the delivery of the information.
- They allow for additional branding capability because you can design shapes and colors into the tag.
- Used broadly in niche markets.
I’ve seen both versions of tags popping up all over magazines and trade shows, so far, it seems that the QR codes are more prevalent over the Mobi Tags. There are people with strong opinions on both technologies and in many ways, this reminds me of the PC/Apple debate or the Beta/VHS debate. I’d recommend that you do your research and speak to a technical expert to determine which version works best for your marketing and business goals.
How it works
You will need a smart phone with Internet access and two apps that reads either QR Codes or Mobi Tags.
- Download a reader to your smart phone. There are lots to choose from, simply search your app marketplace for “bar code reader” or “QR code scanner.” For the Mobi tag reader, head over to the Microsoft Tag Reader site and Download the reader.
- Find a code or tag and scan. The next time you’re flipping through a magazine, and you see a Mobi tag or QR code, whip out your smart phone, click on the app and scan the code into your phone.
- Tour the site on your phone. You’ll be directed to a mobile website where you can get more information, watch a video or fill out a form to get more information.
How you can use tags for marketing your business
You have to wrap your mind around the fact that these codes are truly gateways or doors that your customer will open and walk into when they read the code.
Before you go around haphazardly creating and slapping codes on everything, take a moment to think about your marketing objectives first, then start thinking about actions you want your customers to take with each marketing opportunity—do you want them to watch a demo, fill out a form, schedule an appointment, etc.
There are three components to marketing with tags or codes: Where you put the tag, where you take your customer when they click on it, and what you want them to do.
Where to put the tags:
- Business cards
- Product selling sheets
- Promotional Items (shirts, mugs, mouse pads, etc)
- In the store (to get a coupon or a special free gift)
- On products themselves
- Send them in emails—this seems odd, but it’s possible
- On name tags for trade shows
- Trade show booths
- On surveys (online or printed)
Where to take your customers and the call to action
I’d recommend that you create a special series of landing pages for each tag or code that you put out there. You can always send people to a generic web site, but you’re not really getting your bang for the effort. Consider that your audience is mobile and has come in contact with your product or service. What is it that they need at that moment to choose you?
- Watch a video (demonstration, education, information)?
- Fill out a form to get more information?
- Download a coupon?
- Make a reservation or appointment?
- Participate in a contest or a game?
What to Do Next?
Now that you’ve learned a bit about codes and tags, you’ve got some work to do in figuring out how to incorporate this into your business.
I’m not sure if I would get caught up in making the big decision on which type to use now. Select a couple of different marketing objectives and test each one to see which works best for your company, market or business. The results might surprise you.
Get focused on how these new tools can increase the number of opportunities to get your customers and prospects more engaged in your brand. Remember, the sooner they are engaged with you, the less likely they are to choose someone else.