Setting the Record Straight – QR Code vs. Microsoft Tag

Last week, a contributing author posted an article on Search Engine Land contrasting the pros and cons between QR Codes and Microsoft Tag. While I take no sides in the debate, there is one item that I wanted to address that the author, as well as many others, seem to misunderstand, as it relates to QR Codes. The author stated that, “Microsoft Tags can be visually stunning—QR Codes are border-line ugly.” While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the author and others should know that QR Codes can be anything but “border-line ugly” and, in fact, can be quite aesthetically pleasing. Look at the work from QR Code “designer” companies such as Warbasse Design and QR Arts, and it is easy to see that QR Codes can look just as visually stunning as Microsoft Tags.

True Blood Qr Code

In my mind, there are two reasons why we probably see more basic or generic QR Codes (i.e., codes made of black and white modules) in the wild, as opposed to more visually appealing or designer-based QR Codes. First, brands and their agencies probably don’t know or aren’t aware that QR Codes can be generated in multiple colors, with images/logos embedded and set at various angles. Second, since 2D maybe something new to a company, the company is probably reluctant to invest the time, money and resources necessary to create and produce a designer code when a basic code can often be generated at no or much less cost.

It’s any one’s guess as to how and why people have stated and or believe that QR Codes cannot be generated in color or embedded with images/logo, but hopefully this post helps to dispel that myth.

Louis Vuitton QR Code

Lastly, in the Search Engine Land article, the author questions whether or not consumers will become used to seeing basic codes and not realize or recognize that a designer code is just another form of 2D.  Of course, this will be the case in the beginning, but as more and more companies make use of 2D and help to educate the public about them, consumers will then become more familiar with codes of all types. And the same holds true with QR versus Tag versus JAGTAG versus ezCode, etc. Yes, there are many code providers in the market place, and there is bound to be some consolidation, but for the most part it’s just a matter of time and education until 2D falls into place within the U.S. market and consumers know one type of code from the next.


8 thoughts on “Setting the Record Straight – QR Code vs. Microsoft Tag

  1. Some quick thoughts:

    Designer QR Tags nearly always have problems with poor resolve ratios. Why do we need them?

    They are a make-work project for art directors who feel they need to add visual value when in fact they are taking away value.

    How so? A QR tag is equivalent to an International Symbol. You see it, you understand what to do. When you change the symbol you actually decrease the immediate, implied meaning of the symbol.

    The same for Microsoft Tags which can be customized. Half the time the customization is so severe I lose the first-impression that it's a tag and I should act on it. I wish Microsoft Tags had a different color scheme, since they look like a color chart from 1982, ideally, they will allow some slider-level control to change the colors, but, keep the basic symbol's shape/style.

    Being too visually clever has it's downsides.

    Why are people obsessed with disguising common symbols? I'd venture that it's “print teams” who obsess over this element not mobile teams.

    Establishing a common visual reference amongst the masses will do more for the overall industry than these one-off efforts to get a design award.

  2. Very interesting article. I was one of those who were laboring under the misconception that the 2D barcodes were essentially what they were. Our firm has tinkered around with Microsoft's tags – used them in a few print ads and are currently using them in some out-of-home advertising settings. Here's a blog entry regarding them that might be of interest to you:

    Thanks for sharing. (Found you on LinkedIn, BTW)

  3. A: I don't believe it is a matter of why do we need designer codes, as opposed to, if a company chooses to use a designer code make sure it scans correctly and consumers know that it is a code to be scanned in the first place (e.g., the movie poster). To me, that's all best practice more than anything else. If a company/agency decides to get too clever for its own good then let them…the scan results will prove them out.

    In regard to the movie poster…I used NeoReader and i-nigma and both did not work. If I can't get a scan using them I will usually stop trying. What did you try?

  4. A: Just a follow-up…I looked at the movie poster closer up and actually found the QR Code hidden among the guns. I scanned using NeoReader and i-nigma again and was able to see the resolve with i-nigma only. Regardless, the creative team went a bit too far. A code should not be so hidden. Why make it difficult or, as you say, secretive.

  5. I'm going back to the headline of this Post:

    Microsoft tag vs QR

    Beyond the designer options, there is an awful lot of battling going on right now within the industry. QR feel threatened and is on a constant PR campaign to slam Microsoft. Microsoft don't respond and continues to roll out high profile accounts.

    Frankly, the QR community sound like a bunch of whiners. Plus they are waging internal battles amongst themselves about paid-free-direct-indirect. The QR community are their own worst enemy right now.

    Instead of facilitating and even funding applications and campaigns (as Microsoft have done) to gain more consumer acceptance, they squabble.

    Based on actual scan numbers, it's like fighting over one square foot of sand when there are miles of open beach available.

    Plus, within that one square foot of beach many are burying their head in that precious piece of sand while other technologies come to market that will vastly impact the adoption of QR. Android's announcement yesterday about NFC (near field communication)? The proliferation of LBS ads via Facebook?

    There are days I wonder whether QR will ever survive?

  6. A: I agree with your comment in that there are other technologies coming to the fore and those in the 2D space need to be aware of them or else. But truthfully, I do not see a “war” going on or even a PR battle between QR and Tag. All I see, and maybe this is because I am one step removed from the providers, is one campaign after another being rolled out, whether it be Tag or QR. For every high profile Tag campaign, I see a QR campaign.

    There is something very strange and different going on within the 2D industry and I am surprised no one seems to speak of this. Not that I am trying to be secretive about my observation, but to make mention of it might spark an idea that, frankly, I would like to be a part of. Would be more than glad to discuss offline.

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