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Microsoft Tags, QR Codes and Your Smartphone
By: Teresa Mitchell, Wendy Ogryzek and June Bachman ~ 9/12/2011


Microsoft Tag Video

They are popping up everywhere, in Sunday circulars on ketchup bottles. What are those funny looking things that look like barcodes on steroids? This article shares what those souped-up barcodes are and how your business can incorporate them into your marketing plan.



What are QR codes and Microsoft Tags?


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Developed by a Toyota subsidiary to track parts (back in 1994), QR code is short for “Quick response” code. In 2007 Microsoft developed their own version of color QR Codes, called Microsoft Tags. Microsoft Tags and QR codes are a 2 dimensional barcode or matrix barcode that smartphones read to give their users instant access to information about a product or business. They are a mobile barcode that when scanned using a smartphone, will direct your customers to a destination of value to them – such as a web page.

What does a smartphone need to read a Microsoft Tag or QR code?

Smartphone users will need to download app (application) to their phone that can read the bar code. The user will then use their phone’s camera to snap a picture of the code. Generally, the smartphone will then open their web browser directly to the web page that is associated with the code. . . no scrolling, typing or searching required. For example, if your brand of toothpaste has a QR code on the packaging and you need more, a smartphone user can in a matter of seconds be on the page of your website where they can order more.

It takes less than a minute to install an app on a smartphone. It’s very easy. Here are a couple of places where you can download the scanning applications to your smartphone:

  • I-Nigma – to read QR codes - supports over 600 different smartphones
  • Optiscan – to read QR codes - for iPhones

How are businesses using Microsoft Tags and QR codes?


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Creatively! They are being used in print advertising to instantly direct customers to product reviews, on billboards that take the smartphone user to a URL that has a newly released movie’s trailer, on business cards that link to a coupon, in stores as the clues to a scavenger hunt that takes your customers to a destination of value to them, in museums for self-guided tours and on t-shirts . . . Microsoft Tags and QR Codes take a customer from paper to the internet where you can create specific content that enhances your brand while giving your customer exclusive content.

Are search engines indexing Microsoft Tags and QR codes on websites?

At this moment no. That said, 14 million smartphone users scanned a QR code in 2011. Translated, 14 million represents 6 percent of the market. A significant number that is growing daily and will prompt the search engines to add Microsoft Tags and QR Codes to their indexing algorithms.

How are Microsoft Tags different from QR Tags?

  • Microsoft Tags have what is called a “sunset” feature which is essentially a start and end date that allows you to control how long a product is promoted or a coupon in valid. QR Codes do not have this supporting feature.
  • Microsoft Tags are in color and can be created to reflect your brand while QR Codes are more like a barcode, and monotone (black and white only).
  • Microsoft Tags are space friendly, that is they can be very small (3/4 inch) – great for use in printed materials with space constraints. QR Codes grow proportionately to the amount of information is inserted into the code.
  • Microsoft Tags, when scanned, are routed through a Microsoft server making it easy to access comprehensive data on the tags’ effectiveness.
  • QR Codes can be effectively read on curved surfaces, like a jar, while Microsoft Tags are most readable on flat surfaces.
  • Since Microsoft Tags have a 1000 character limit (about 200 words) they are less prone to errors than QR Codes that allow for 4 times as many characters (4,296).
  • With Microsoft Tags you can use photo-realistic images for your tag’s background. In other words, you have a lot of creative license to make them pretty and not as “code-ish” looking as a QR Code.

How can I incorporate a Microsoft Tag or QR Code to my business’ marketing plan?

The only limit to how you can use Microsoft Tags and QR Code in your marketing plan is the ability to imagine how it could be used. You have creative license to create a tag that leads your customers to:

  • Favorable reviews of the products or services your business provides.
  • Add a tag or code to a coupon that can only be redeemed using a smartphone.
  • Create an in store scavenger hunt that creates a series of tags with clues to the find the next clue and ends with something of value to your customers . . . a coupon for their next purchase, a free gift, an entry into a drawing . . . Your objective is to take them to parts of your website or brick and mortar store that they otherwise might not go to.
  • Add a tag or code to your business card that directs your customers to your Facebook Fanpage and other social media sites.
  • Put a tag or code on the open / closed sign of your brick and mortar store that takes your customers to your online store to Shop Now!
  • Post tags or codes throughout your store which offer exclusive discounts that encourage customers to sha re with their friends.
  • Engage in a little shameless self-promotion and put a tag on a t-shirt and wear it to an event that attracts your customers, like a trade show if you are a vendor supplier or a sporting event if you market sporting goods or a walk-a-thon you are promoting for a cause
  • Create a tag and place it next to a product that is linked to a your You Tube video that you filmed to teach your customers how to use your product.
  • Make the phone ring with a tag or code that dials your business phone or dedicated line.

Tips for successfully adding a Microsoft Tag or QR Code to your marketing campaign

  • Be creative and offer something that your customers will not find anywhere else. Make a scan of your tag or code worthwhile by making what your customer finds exclusive, dynamic and interactive.
  • Test your site with a smartphone to ensure that what the tag or code is linked to looks good on a small screen.
  • Put a little distance between your tag or code and what it is placed around it, like text, to ensure that your customers can scan your tag or code.
  • Test the code and the links in the code . . . before you send your marketing materials to the printer! If a customer scans your code and finds a broken link it is the equivalent of shutting the door in their face, they will not try again.

We think Microsoft Tags and QR Codes are here to stay and are a creative way to target your tech savvy customers. Think outside and beyond the barcode . . . the possibilities are endless and again, only limited by what you can imagine!

Not sure how to get started with your QR codes or MS Tags? Call bWyse today 425-885-9976… we can help!