QR Codes are the latest cutting edge technique for linking the consumer of a traditional product to the digital world. They are a new way of spreading messages, improved by all those advantages and flexibility which Internet can offer.
QR codes work in a variety of ways, including pointing people directly to a website just using a smartphone camera to scan the code. That’s why they can be considered a brand new and useful tool for promoting business and meeting potential clients.
Microsoft has decided to be part of the business establishing different rules. That’s why it has come out with its own proprietary format of advanced coding: Microsoft Tags.
Where are the differences between them? Which advantages for your business? Which the more suitable and appealing solution for graphic industry?
This is what we are going to understand with this article.
QR codes (abbreviated from Quick Response code)are the equivalent of the more common barcodes.
Where barcodes have just one dimension, QR codes are bi-dimensional and can contain much more information. They need just a reader installed on mobile phone equipped with a camera. The image is scanned and the reader decodes the information. Data are delivered in the easiest possible way.
Barcodes found in the past their wide use in the packaging industry to identify products in stock. QR Codes are far more than this. They can be used for connecting people in the real world, made of advertising, packaging and printed stuffs, to a virtual reality, where you find vCards instead of business cards, websitesfor brochures and product cards for packaging descriptions.
As well as barcodes, QR Codes can be easily scanned. They don’t need dedicated hardware, just a camera and a reader application specific for the code. Most of the readersare free and, at the end of this article, you fill find a list of links and other resources which worth a visit.
QR code data capacity
QR codes may be used to display:
Displaying them printed on magazine or advertising you provide interactive contents to the reader.
QR Codes have not been developed to be attractive. They usually are monochromatic, using black and white fuzzy graphic. Anyway, with a good creative approach their appearance can be greatly improved, using different colors, by incepting image in the code and using background blending techniques. You only need to bear in mind some basic guidelines that we will see later in the article.
Since 2D barcodes have not been standardized, Microsoft has created its own reply to the QR Codes: Microsoft Tags.
MS Tag uses a Microsoft patented technology called HCCB (High Capacity Color Barcode) which, as the name suggests, allows the use of the basic CMYK colors.
As well as QR Code, Microsoft Tag supports four basic content types: URLs, free text, vCards and a dialer.
Tags are powerful tools for temporary guerrilla marketing and promo code campaigns. You can also specify an expiry date for the promotion.
The information Tag shared can be re-edited without recreate the image from scratch. This could be possible because of the unique info encoded is an ID containing a link which points to a server. This automatically reply with the required information there stored.
This point requires further explanation. When you sign in for MS Tag account you get access to you Tags Manager. Tags Manager not only allows you to create new tags and generate their image, set how long they will be active etc. As a matter of fact, it represents your tag content. That’s why users not only need a dedicated reader but also an Internet connection available in order to read a MS Tag.
The differences between QR Codes and Microsoft Tags make the user confused in which platform should be better.
The HCCB technology makes able to encode more number in a smaller area. That’s why MS Tag can have an extremely small footprint, handling the errors much better than QR Code. As a matter of fact, MS Tags encode less information than QR Codes. Less data means less error where more data means a larger amount of information to decode and more error may occur.
The platform supports three basic visual display modes: triangle, points or even custom tags which, anyway, must be done by following precise guidelines.
If you look at these guidelines they may look a bit complicated but they ensure you a great flexibility in your tag creation. If you choose to use dots, you can even add a custom photo-realistic image as background.
QR Codes have been on the run since several years now, whereas Microsoft Tags are a recent creation. By the way, they have recently known an increment in their application, becoming more widely used in marketing campaign. Communication and marketing experts have integrated them into both traditional and interactive campaigns. This has provided a new frontier in the customer’s behavior analysis. Let’s see what they are useful for.
QR codes and MS Tags are offering endless marketing opportunities. Today, with the remarkable growth of mobile and smart phones, this potential can be easily implemented.
Use them as call-to-action tool to give direct access to your web site, software or promotions. Add them to your print campaign, magazine ads or even on your business card and let your content instantly available on mobile devices. Your reader just need to scan the squared image and info will be ready to be used or stored.
Pay attention and remember that MS Tags need an active connection to be run, whereas QR Code can be also used offline. This is obvious since, as we said, MS tag actually doesn’t contain any real information except for an ID which points to the real data stored in the MS Servers. Clearly this is a disadvantage on the side of the privacy issue. On the other hand, for the same reasons, they are a powerful marketing analysis tools. MS servers elaborate the requests returning you a report. Data provide detailed metrics like geo-location, repeat scans and demographics info.
The same is also possible by using QR-Code but the analytics collected depends on the reader app used for scanning. Since Microsoft Tag official website only provides the appropriate MS Tag reader they have much more control on the data acquired, which make, in this case, MS Tags more effective. You’ll be able to make an accurate campaign effectiveness measurement of the response rates.
Creating a unique URL for a specific code campaign you can measure the response rates with a high degree of precisions. This helps the ROI (return on investment) calculation and allows better allocating marketing budgets for future campaigns.
You can also take advantage from 2D Codes use adding them to your own business cards. In this way you will address your personal details to potential clients, customers or employers directing them all data in a quick and easy scan. Your vCard will be instantly recognized and stored in their devices, available for future contacts.
Brochures are another ideal application for 2D codes. Trade shows are probably one of the best places to distribute marketing literature with QR Codes. Just think about how many people, walking around the booths and having a smart-phone in their hand, pick up your brochure and scan you Company contacts.
Recently QR-Codes and MS Tags have also been integrated on company websites,personal portfolios and micro-social identities (such as Twitter backgrounds). As we already seen for business cards, you add a code which points out to your digital identity, making the link easy to be stored on the phone.
2D Codes can be printed or displayed on a variety of mediums including newspapers, magazines, packaging, posters, plasma/LCD screens, billboards, T-shirts mugs and other gadgets
Is clear what kind of powerful promotional tool they are.
Tesco Home Plus is a supermarket chain in Korea which was determined to become grocery number 1. Despite of its main competitor E-Mart had more store they tried a new and innovative way to increase their popularity and customers without increase the number of stores as well.
The video will show you how they applied an extremely creative and strong campaign which heavily involves QR-Codes use.
Tesco set up several virtual grocery stores decorating subway/metro stations with posters that completely cover the wall and resemble the aisles and shelves of a supermarket. Each represented product was equipped with a QR-Code. Customer simply scan the products adding them to a shopping list while they are waiting for the metro, pay the virtual cart with credit card and their groceries are then delivered to home.
It is a true and innovative way of thinking the everyday life, people will be buying food based on photo and description appeared on their mobile display.
There are several free sites you can use to create your QR Codes. As said, only Microsoft provides MS Tags creator.
There are few rules to follow to create a QR Code and customize it, several others that need to bear in mind in order to create MS Tags.
It should be admitted that Microsoft provides a huge amount of, more or less, clear documentation, samples and guides, to properly implement your own MS Tag. You can retrieve all of them by following this link to the resources available on the official site.
Here following some tips which should help you in creating your QR Code making it widely compatible and readable from most handsets:
General rules are the same of those that we have seen for QR Codes. Size can be scaled but not squeezed or shrunk.
The black and white Tag border is part of the Tag and it must not be customized or changed in any way.
The official guidelines said:
To provide a wide variety of branding and creative opportunities, Tags are customizable. You can modify how a Tag looks to suit your individual and business goals.
The “Quick and Easy” approach lets you customize Tags by using dots instead of triangles and replacing the background with an image, as shown:
Using the “Advanced Design” approach, you can create more intricate designs by integrating symbols into the design concept, as shown:
The official guide is highly detailed and also contains a short tutorial on how to customize your code using Adobe Illustrator and on how to disguise the original code dots inside an personal artwork and let it still working.
For more details I invite you to carefully read Microsoft Tag Implementation Guide. How to ensure your Tag works properly.
Here below two tables which compare the main Pro and Cons of QR Code and Microsoft Tag.
|W/B colors||-||Not really attractive but can be customized|
|History||High compatibility with a wide range of handsets and devices||-|
|Appealing and visual based||Less supported|
|The content is self-contained||Can be used offline||If you change something in the content you have to print the render again|
|CMYK colors||More attractive||More expensive to be printed|
|Small footprint||Less invasive, more info in smaller area to cover||Not really useful, particularly if displayed on screen, posters or billboards|
|New technology||Appealing and visual based||Less supported|
|The content is on MS servers||More detailed metrics
You can change the content whenever you want without need to print the render again.
|- No offline use is possible
- Lower user privacy protection
- You need a live connection
A great and clear article about the key differences between these two 2D code platforms is that written by Tamir Khason, titled Microsoft Tag vs. QR tag.
Some Example of QR Code Creative Use
Example of Microsoft Tag Creative Use
During the last few years 2D Codes have seen an increase in their useas marketing tools, and have been integrated into both traditional and interactive campaigns. They are useful to manage the customers experience establishing immediate contact with them.
We can talk endlessly about the differences but everything at the end is reduced to individual opinions and preferences. Personally I still prefer QR Codes for a bunch of reasons.
Firstly you don’t need to be connected to Internet to use de code. This means that a plain text or a vCard can be received and saved without being online.
This brings me to my second reason. I’m the only proprietary of my information and they are not stored in a remote, even the most secure of the World, server.
I know I have to accept a less eye catching graphic but I can consider this as a point of start to work on. We have seen that also QR Codes allow appealing images; it just needs to be creative. After all we are the right people for the job.
What do you think about? Have you ever included QR Codes or Microsoft Tag in some of your works? Which feedback have you received? Let’s share our stories together!