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Five ways to ruin a 2D bar code campaign and how to fix it

Bill McQuain is director of business development a

Bill McQuain is director of business development at Microsoft Tag

By Bill McQuain

In today’s digital age where we sleep with our smartphones, crave instantaneous information and stay in constant communication with those around us, 2D bar codes are emerging as a go-to resource for brands to connect their customers to relevant information, entertainment and interactive experiences when and where they want it.

And with smartphone use on the rise – some 1 billion people are already using smartphones to connect with the world around them – 2D bar codes can tap that user base, bringing a deeper connection and personalized experience to consumers.

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However, as 2D bar codes become more popular and campaigns pop up all around us, many companies are failing to follow some of the golden rules and best practices of implementing mobile codes, leaving consumers frustrated and confused. 

To captivate your target audience, get them excited about your brand and keep them coming back for more, these are five pitfalls you must avoid.

1. Naked codes
A naked bar code at the bottom of a page in a magazine, on a billboard, or on a movie poster that offers no explanation to the action required, what kind of bar code reader is needed, or what kind of experience awaits behind the code is useless.

Education is crucial for a successful campaign and providing basic guidance will help significantly. 

With all 2D bar codes, it is important to indicate that the bar code is enabled by a smartphone, note the specific reader that is required to access the information, and where to download the reader if consumers do not already have it on their phone.

Additionally, make sure to give them a sneak peek into the experience they are about to unlock. 

When you add a short description of what is behind the 2D bar code you can capture consumers' curiosity and they will be more likely to scan because they know what to expect.

2. Lame experience
The best way to alienate consumers who scan a mobile code is to direct them to a non-mobile optimized Web site.

Consumers are increasingly mobile-savvy and expect mobile-optimized experiences, so give it to them.

And while you are at it, think about incorporating contests, rewards for loyal customers, exclusive content and destinations that only live behind your mobile code. This will encourage repeat scans and ongoing brand engagement.

3. The lone bar code
No bar code should be an island. Typically, the more mobile codes you see, the more likely you are to scan.

If you have mobile tags on all of your product packaging or on most of your materials that offer exclusive content or an opportunity to win a contest, consumers will want to download a reader, scan bar codes and receive access to special content.

If consumers only see one 2D bar code promoting your brand, but never encounter another code in association with your company again, why would they feel the need to scan?

4. Poor location
How would you scan a 2D bar code on a billboard on the side of a freeway from your moving vehicle? You would not – not safely at least. Bar codes are most likely scanned when someone is stationary, focused, and has her mobile phone handy.

Try placing mobile tags on the back of stadium chairs at a ballgame, on your product’s packaging, on a magazine page, or on a shelf talker in a store.

5. Repetitive experience
If you link to the exact same experience with every code you put on your advertising or marketing materials, your audience will likely stop scanning your codes because they already know what they are going to get.

Mixing up campaigns and code-usage is important to keep consumers engaged and to avoid stale or overused experiences.

When you plan your next 2D bar code campaign, make sure to think through all of these pitfalls to create a positive experience for your consumers that will have them scanning for years to come. And, most importantly, be creative.

There is no limit to the innovative campaigns that mobile codes can support to help build engagement and loyalty with your brand.

Bill McQuain is director of business development at Microsoft Tag, Redmond, WA. Reach him at .

Related content: Columns, Microsoft Tag, 2D bar codes, mobile marketing, mobile, mobile bar code campaigns

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Comments on "Five ways to ruin a 2D bar code campaign and how to fix it "

  1. Nick Martin says:

    September 7, 2011 at 1:28pm

    The pitfalls mentioned by Bill would apply to SMS as well, but the barrier to engagement is lower with a 2D barcode. Rather than a multi-step process of inserting text, sending, then opening a link the user simply aims their mobile device once in the app and they are taken to the digital experience.

    Microsoft Tag also opens up the opportunity for brands to keep engagement interesting using the Device ID. The feature makes it possible to deliver different content each time a user scans. So, if at first you want to keep it simple by returning a text or video to a user on the first scan you can do that, but you can also reward users for repeat engagement by later offering discounts to get them in your store or exclusive offers to enhance advocacy. There is simply more opportunity for rich engagement with 2D barcodes when compared to SMS.

    Nick Martin
    Online Community Manager
    Microsoft Tag
  2. Erik Goldhar says:

    September 7, 2011 at 1:15pm

    Thank you for the post Bill.

    I have written many articles that cover the same topic. My latest, The Top 10 Mistakes To Avoid When Integrating QR Codes Into Your Marketing Tactics can be accessed here https://plus.google.com/117152472443323112644/posts/UmoJmRSfUp4

    Why not use an SMS campaign?
    1. Hidden Cost

    2. Not Direct (I have to text a message in order to wait for a link...why not just take me directly to the link)

    3. Not As Immediate - Sometimes SMS replies get lost in cyberspace...I have waited hours for the reply text.

    4. Phone numbers that are captured from an SMS can't be used unless you provide an opt-in and explicitly state this in the call to action. This takes up valuable Real Estate on the ad itself. If you contact someone without this opt-in it is a violation of privacy laws in Canada and the US and is spam.
  3. Randy Atkisson says:

    September 7, 2011 at 10:39am

    Sounds like a lot of work. Why not just use a simple SMS element that can deliver a rich experience to any handset, where the call-to-action is also the explanation, clear, concise and not nearly as confusing to the audience? Don't want to intimidate the audience with an opt-in?
  4. Jim Morrone says:

    September 7, 2011 at 8:13am

    Why wouldn't you just use an SMS campaign? You don't need a page of instructions to the consumer and it works with any phone. It generally produces the same results.

    The consumer just sends the keyword to the short code, receives the link, and goes to visit the page (if they have a smart phone).

    The business has now captured that mobile number for future marketing efforts.
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