Too Many 2D Codes?

By | January 10, 2012

I just received a press release about Jeff Hayzlett’s new book, Running the Gauntlet, and was interested to see that, even with all the talk about QR codes lately, he chose to use SnapTags—not QR codes—to provide interactivity with his audience.

In the book, released just this month, Hayzlett has added SnapTags to the front each of the 35 chapters. The tags contain links to a video of Hayzlett explaining what the chapter covers.

SnapTags are yet another form of 2d barcode. They have similar characteristics to QR codes, but unlike QR codes, you can also take a picture of them, text it back to SnapTag, and the content (image, video, or link) will be sent back to you much the same way as JagTags.

But unlike JagTags or QR codes, SnapTags are their own mini mobile universe.  The SnapTag platform is built around mobile SnapTag sites so the person scanning the tag or accessing the content automatically lands on a mobile optimized page. Each page also contains social media links to allow viral sharing by default.

Another difference is that SnapTags are embedded in an open ring, so the marketer can use its logo (or any other image or content) inside the ring without interfering with the tag. QR codes can also be branded, but the logo is contained within the code itself, so when any kind of branding is added, it degrades the code. If too much information is removed, the branding can render the code unreadable or make it difficult to read. SnapTag’s open ring solves that problem.

I’ve seen Hayzlett’s book, Running the Gauntlet, and used the tags. They are admittedly very cool. But they do raise the question — how many different types of 2d codes do people really need? SnapTags have a lot of wonderful features, including the fact that they make branding easy and solve some of the challenges associated with non-proprietary codes, such as sending people to non-mobile sites and not including social media.

But how many different 2d codes do we have now? Microsoft TAG, QR codes, JagTags, SnapTags, Datamatrix, BeeTAG, Scanbuy, and the list goes on. Then there are 2d barcode-like codes like Google Goggles and Digimarc Discover. Some are proprietary. Others are not. Some platforms scan certain codes, but not others. The more codes we have to solve problems with other codes, the more confusing it becomes for the user. Which code am I scanning? Do I have the right software? Can I just text back a picture instead? Or is it not one of those?

We’re at a confusing time for 2d barcodes right now. They have great usefulness, but the plethora of different types and functionalities can create confusion, too. Does adding new forms of barcodes really make things better? As service providers, do we offer them all? Or do we pick one and stick with it? I wonder.

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4 thoughts on “Too Many 2D Codes?

  1. Bryan Yeager

    Heidi, good post and good points. InfoTrends just finished conducting an extensive study on mobile response codes called “Mobile Technology: Making Print Interactive” (which I will write more about in an upcoming blog post). We surveyed consumers about their familiarity with all of the different types of response code technologies in the market today.

    We found that QR codes had the highest level of awareness among consumers across all age ranges. Furthermore, they are the most widely used by marketers and print service providers. This finding makes makes sense, since QR codes have the lowest barrier to creation and implementation; there is a plethora of tools to generate them, and you’re not locked into a proprietary platform.

    Familiarity with other types of response codes typically rate in the single digits. Microsoft Tag is an exception, with over 20% of consumers reporting familiarity with them. Each response code technology provides distinct advantages and disadvantages; marketers, advertisers, media companies, and service providers need to take these factors into consideration before selecting one to use. As you mention, SnapTags are used to help promote brand identity when conducting a campaign that includes mobile response codes, and they also support interaction via MMS and e-mail, which enables a broader population of phone owners to engage in that campaign. Bud Light is doing a large-scale Super Bowl campaign using SnapTags right now.

    In the end, I think the multitude of response code technologies does indeed cause confusion among consumers, but there is progress being made. Microsoft added the ability to scan QR codes (and NFC) in its latest Tag Reader mobile app release. Digital agency Nellymoser, which specializes in mobile response codes (or as it calls them, “action codes”) created a universal code scanning application that support QR codes, DataMatrix, MS Tags, and Digimarc Discover digital watermarks. It is currently whitelabeling that app to its partners/clients such as Lucky Magazine, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.

    Ultimately, it is the consumer that will decide if mobile response codes in general are something they want to interact with. It is up to marketers, advertisers, and service providers to create enticing, valued offers or content that drive people to interact and engage that will make the use of mobile response codes successful.

  2. Rachel Keslensky

    Goggle Goggles is a mobile app, not a competing 2D barcode. (One of the best for QR code recognition, too!)

    QR codes have one major advantage over other codes, and that’s that the things are FREE to make. I looked at SnapTags earlier this year to evaluate them for my company, and the major “turnoff” for me was twofold: one, that it cost money to register my brand with the company (making it inaccessible to a small business) and make codes, and two, that it was even more cumbersome than a QR code to me (“snap and go” vs. “Okay, I think I got a clear picture, now I send that picture via MMS to this code number and get a text message back… wait, why did they even need a picture? Couldn’t I have just texted a word or something?”)

    I believe QR codes are also the most instantly recognizable codes, and as such, I use them. The Snaptag system is cumbersome and only available to larger companies in my eyes. The rest, I haven’t bothered to learn… I don’t see any difference, to be honest.

  3. Heidi Tolliver-Walker Post author

    Hi, Rachel.

    I’m aware that Google Goggles is not a 2d barcode. Neither is Digimarc Discover. I only included them because they fall under the same umbrella of using your phone to investigate surroundings and require a proprietary app. I assumed readers would understand this, too, and didn’t mean to create confusion.


  4. Kevin Keane

    Hi Heidi

    You nailed it – the internecine warfare over which type of 2D code is
    “Better” for mass consumption has served to confuse the masses!

    For those who may not have seen it — this thread from 28 November includes a video of our friend Jeff Hayzlett extolling Snaptags. He is always compelling and his use of Snaptags in the new book is a really fun idea — kind of like John Foley of interlinkONE and Grow Socially using QR codes in his book about Business Transformation, a New Path to Profit for the Printing Industry.

    Both books become more “alive” thanks to the use of the 2D codes.

    If you have time, in addition to watching Jeff dismember QR codes as ‘so yesterday,’ check out the comments — Roger Matus is with Nellymoser, the firm Bryan references, and Heidi you know of Nick Ford, as he has been a huge QR & mktg proponent for several years now. There is also a pretty cool infographic linked to in the comments that compares SnapTags and QR codes.

    Fortune 100 brands can make hay, including the all important brand awareness gambit using Snaptags, but since most printing firms are smaller operations servicing small businesses in their trading area, one suspects that the QR code, non-proprietary and growing in recognition, will suffice, at least until the genre of iPR – intelligent print recognition, and NFC and iQR and AR and so on become even sexier.

    QR codes are at core, just a response mechanism – it’s what happens next that really matters once the target consumer snaps the code.

    The one downside I have always felt for QR codes is one that applies to another response mechanism — the pURL – anything that requires a multi-step process, proprietary or not, takes some of the consumers most precious asset – time. Therefore, the video or offer or whatever that you are taken to by the QR Code, better be mobile, sexy and worthwhile.

    Thanks Heidi for your continued excellent work on behalf of the graphic arts industries.

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