Barcodes are a pretty big deal – and not just at the grocery store. 2D barcodes are the mainstream of recognition technologies used for mobile marketing. You’ll be hearing more about newcomers such as NFC, but for now, the majority of folks are sticking with 2D.
In mobile tagging, the barcode is a printed symbol that connects a physical object (a magazine ad) to a digital experience on a smartphone (a cool video). Why should you care? Because a 2D barcode like a Microsoft Tag barcode adds a whole new dimension to your marketing campaigns, making them more engaging and interactive.
You can put a 2D barcode on just about anything – printed materials, packaging, posters, signs, websites, clothing. When people can scan the barcode with their smartphones, they instantly see the online content you’ve created – from a product video to a sweepstakes to a custom mobile site.
But not all barcodes are created equal. The type of barcode you use is important, because features and ease of use vary. There are three types of barcodes in common use: Microsoft Tag barcodes, QR Codes, and traditional linear barcodes.
Tag barcodes are the newest edition of 2D barcodes. They offer more flexibility than older formats both in the barcode design and the content behind it. Because Tag barcodes are linked to data stored on a server, you can deliver a more robust online experience – including entire mobile sites – and update the content any time without having to change the Tag. So, if you link a Tag on your business card to your résumé, it will still be valid after you get that big promotion. Tags can be black-and-white or full-color, including custom images (e.g., a company logo).
The Quick Response (QR) Code was the earliest 2D barcode. It was designed to be a bump up from its predecessor, the 1D barcode, because it can contain more information. While not technically open source, the inventor of the QR Code and owner of the QR Code trademark, DENSO, has allowed the patents for the code to be freely available to the public. QR Codes have a variety of disparate formats and reader apps, and can be black-and-white or basic colors. Because of these constraints, QR Codes are best suited for simple designs that don't require integration with your branding.
It’s not likely, but it’s possible the 1D barcode on your loaf of bread carries a little something extra. Some marketers provide basic product information using the 1D barcodes you’ve known for years. Some services use mobile apps to scan these barcodes and display data such as prices, descriptions, and user reviews.