QR Codes or SnapTags? What Do You Think?

On Tuesday, I posted about a very funny (but appropriate) response I recently saw to a question about the use SnapTags over QR Codes. (In case you missed it, you can see the post here.) But funny and thought-provoking comments aside, the issue itself still stands—which is better and why?

With the rise in number of proprietary 2d mobile barcodes being applied to everything from direct mail to posters, it’s a relevant question. Go with the open source code or the proprietary code that comes with more bells and whistles? Most of the issues related to SnapTag apply to other proprietary barcodes, as well, so let’s pick on SnapTags.

  • SnapTag and other proprietary tags are just that — proprietary.  They require you to buy into someone else’s system and pay them to do it.
  • Proprietary tags come with more upfront functionality than QR Codes, but while the code itself may be proprietary, the functionality isn’t. You can get all the same functionality with QR Codes (such as the ability to track in detail or encode personalized URLs) with a little programming that someone on your staff can probably figure out for free.
  • That is, if you even need all that functionality in the first place. Most of the tracking you need may be gotten by using a URL shortener (which you probably want to do anyway) that tracks for you. Not everyone needs to track unique hits or embed personalized information.
  • Proprietary tags still have the challenge of being recognized by the public as being a code readable on the user’s smartphone, except they have the additional barrier of requiring a proprietary reader. Viewers have a better chance of having a QR Code reader (any kind of QR Code reader) than they do the proprietary one. So you have an extra hurdle of requiring that extra step before they can view anything. (Hmmm . . . did your incentive cost just go up?)
  • Plus, you still have to provide  scanning and download instructions just like a QR Code. There are far less people who recognize proprietary codes like SnapTag than QR Codes.
  • Proprietary codes require URL redirection. This means that the URL you are generating is not your URL, but a SnapTag or other proprietary URL. This means that should the company turn off its servers, the code goes nowhere.  (Here’s one expert’s take on this — worth your while to take a look.)
  • Plus, as a user, proprietary codes just creep me out. Maybe it’s because I write about these things too much, but proprietary codes just scream, “I’m tracking you!!!” while QR Codes may or may not be set up for that level of detail. I feel more anonymous with QR Codes, and when I’m responding to any kind of marketing schtick, I like it that way. Maybe that’s just me.

Granted, if you want an all-in-one-package that is just handed to you with little effort and your campaign is going to be completely over in a very short span of time and it’s worth it to your client to get in, get out, and get what they need quickly, proprietary codes offer a lot of ease of use and functionality. But taking the long-term view? As for me, I’m sticking with QR Codes.


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4 thoughts on “QR Codes or SnapTags? What Do You Think?

  1. Jim Olsen

    Hi Heidi (I love the way that sounds): You’re right. The ubiquitousness of QR codes readers on every smart phone facilitates their use. Problem is they are aesthetically displeasing and take up valuable substrate real estate.

    The solution: The ultimate interactive print solution. Every printed product/image gets scanned, indexed, and flies off into the cloud. Any smart phone user scans any printed product with a non-proprietary app and presto they are transported somewhere into EtherNet Land. I’ll bet a nickel that it happens some day – sort of like Dick Tracy’s radio wrist watch – which most readers never heard of.

  2. Heidi Tolliver-Walker Post author

    I would agree that perhaps they will be aesthetically displeasing in a few years, but now, I wonder if they are seen by readers as making a statement.

    My husband works at a private school and it’s currently splashed with posters advertising various colleges and universities to soon-to-be graduates. He just sent me a picture of the wall — most of the colleges and universities have lovely pictures of campuses, happy students, college life.

    The poster for one college, however, has only one image. A QR Code. That’s it. Just the code. I would venture to say that college is making a very loud statement about what kind of student it’s trying to attract.

    So perhaps whether QR and other codes are aesthetically displeasing may depend on the target audience.

  3. John Johnson


    We won’t use either. Jim is correct in his prediction of the future. In the very near future, one of the players will win out, but it won’t be Snap or QR. It will most likely be something that Google or Apple gets behind. We currently use the Digimarc technology because their marks are invisible and have been used for identity and intellectual property protection (passports, driver’s licenses, TSA, homeland security stuff). Their patents are vast (over 600) and growing. We partnered with them to put their technology into our offerings to the real estate vertical. It was the only way to build a turnkey solution that is elegant and puts the controls into the end user’s control. Sport Illustrated just used it in their latest swimsuit and march madness issues. The only hurdle we face has been caused by the QR code. That is the fact that it’s conspicuous and users don’t know something is behind the photo. The Digimarc Discover mark is invisible to a human’s eye, so we have to place an icon and instructions on the download of the app to read it. But once someone gets it is spreads quickly. I would put my money behind them as being one of the short list players to get their technology incorporated into either or both of the smart phone operating systems.

  4. QR Codes

    Hi Heidi, Nice and informative comparison amognt the two.

    As a means of mobile marketing, QR Code has proven as a method of storing scanable information. While SnapTags are new and provide some advantages of QR Codes, still it will be some time before they catch on as an industry standard for mobile marketing.

    Thanks for sharing this information.

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