social media toolsConsumer behaviors are changing, and mobile technologies are among the predominant influences affecting the shift.

More than 50% of all local web searches take place with mobile devices.

That spells opportunity for businesses that have a mobile marketing strategy.

Does your business have a mobile strategy?

Why QR codes/MS tags?

Success with mobile marketing starts with understanding your customers and then implementing an appropriate strategy. Although some marketers are known to embrace new technologies without first considering their full impact on the consumer.

This has proved to be true with QR codes.  Notwithstanding the buzz surrounding QR codes’ ineffective applications have chilled some of the enthusiasm for their use as mobile marketing triggers. To help solve this problem, technology giant Microsoft, creators of the MS tag technology that competes with QR, has stepped forward.

mobile triggers

2d codes activate or trigger the mobile cycle.

Microsoft realizes QR codes and MS tags, in addition to other technologies, all serve distinct purposes. Collectively, they are an ecosystem of mobile triggers that offer choices for marketers and consumers alike. So the logical solution was to bring them together into one reliable platform.

The MS Tag Manager makes it easier for marketers to use QR, MS tag, and other mobile technologies not just to reach consumers, but also to brand the experience and gather rich data for delivering even more favorable experiences in the future.

tag platform and tag manager

The Microsoft Tag Platform with Tag Manager.

To be more specific, you can now generate QR codes and MS tags with the Tag Manager, and also track a number of consumer actions associated with the use of those 2D codes. This is just the beginning, as there are plans to integrate additional mobile technologies, with the first being NFC—Near Field Communication, a technology used for digital payments and other secure mobile activities.

Needless to say, if you have not been considering mobile marketing, these developments may change your mind.

If you are new to 2D tags, you will find these Social Media Examiner articles especially helpful: How QR Codes Can Grow Your Business and 5 Steps to a Successful QR Code Marketing Campaign.

Technology Is Just the Trigger for the Mobile Experience

Now that you can use the Tag Manager software to create MS tags and QR codes, and use the Microsoft Tag Reader to scan or read either 2D code, which should you choose?

According to Elliott Lemenager, social media manager for Microsoft, the key is to recognize that both are just triggers for digitally linking to mobile devices to activate a favorable consumer experience.

Is the QR code more likely to be scanned by your community because it resembles the familiar linear barcodes, or is a branded MS tag more likely to engage a prospective customer?

branded MS tag

Scanning this branded MS Tag takes you to the author's mobile friendly site.

All of these technologies are vehicles to connect the digital with the physical world. Each can be used separately or in combination. For example, QR could be used to deliver discount coupons, and Tag for offering a branded link to marketing materials.

Why not test the response rate by using both in your next mobile marketing campaign?

The MS Tag Implementation Guide and video below show how easy it is to create either of these 2D codes using the Microsoft Tag Manager.

What else could be coming to this platform? Use your imagination—anything digital. Think about what’s on your mobile device now: music, video, images, voice and games. These are all part of the mobile ecosystem, and therefore present opportunities for marketers and consumers to better communicate and interact.

What will work best for your business will depend upon a number of factors, with two of the most relevant being location and social context.

The Intersection of Social, Local and Mobile

Consumers have embraced mobile for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is convenience. What is convenient is typically used more frequently, and when it is mobile, in a variety of different contexts.

opportunity ahead

Opportunity lies at the intersection of social, local, and mobile. Image: iStockphoto.

This context is the intersection of social networking, local-based marketing and mobile technologies—something that is proving to be a marketing sweet spot.


Mobile is local—something that should interest every small business that wants to reach and interact with consumers when and where they are most receptive, and in ways that they expect.

One of the keys to location is that it is unique. What matters to consumers in a smaller town may or may not align with the needs of those in an urban community, even when they share otherwise similar demographics.

For example, if you live and work in a large city, having a nice car that is subject to theft, accidents and other environmental conditions may not be a consideration. A local business will know this, but it may not be obvious to a business that is simply trying to be local.


According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the social version of anything is more engaging and will outperform nonsocial. If he is correct, then the location aspect of mobile marketing is even more relevant if your friends are involved.

One thing is clear: There is a reason why Facebook Chief Technology Officer Bret Taylor recently stated that within the next three years, nearly every Facebook employee will be working on mobile.


Mobile has the advantage of using social context to enhance search. Google Search, plus Your World is one example of how this will work.

The challenge is to determine what information is most relevant to the success of your business. Is it the location of your prospective customers or what they are sharing with their friends in that location?

As a consumer, where and when you are, and whom you are with, are all that matters. Each and every one of us is the center of our own universe. That’s the opportunity for marketers—to learn more about what is central to their customers and how their business can become integral to those experiences.

The Consumer Experience Is Ultimately What Matters

There is an axiom in business that if you choose not to measure something, you are saying it is not important. Everyone likes to count profits, but measuring the consumer behaviors that contribute to profits is what will encourage their growth. One method for accomplishing this is a strategic use of 2D codes.

mobility on ipad

Mobile marketing should always consider consumer context. Image: iStockphoto.

Using Tag Manager, you can create MS tags and QR codes that will track a number of mobile actions, with all of them being free. For example, you can track the location of your customer by zip code, or longitude and latitude. This you can accomplish on your own.

However, if you are willing to enlist the help of a developer, you can also track more specific real-time actions, such as scans by the type of device. The investment will be modest, not unlike that of periodically upgrading your website.

To take advantage of all of these tracking capabilities, the URL of your 2D code has to lead to a link on the web or a native app on a mobile device. You only have to add a few additional characters to your URL when generating the code. When that code is scanned, the mobile device shares the desired information.

Of course, the user device has to have geolocation activated. Additionally, the user must be using the MS Tag Reader when scanning the code. This will clearly not be a problem if the code is an MS tag. However, because there are many QR code readers, this presents a problem.

Microsoft clearly has a marketing challenge to encourage more widespread use of the Tag Manager platform. It is going to be an uphill battle, but it can certainly be won.

To be clear, gathering data on the actions of consumers with 2D codes requires generating that code with a service that offers code management capabilities. Thus, you have to entrust your codes to someone, and this is one reason why an established company like Microsoft has a shot at building a platform that becomes a destination for mobile marketers.

One of the cardinal rules of marketing is you have to meet your customers where they are, and customers today are increasingly mobile. The new playground for marketers is social, local and mobile, and a successful mobile marketing strategy using 2D codes will place your business there in real time.

What do you think? Is your business ready to play? Leave your questions and comments in the box below.

Images from iStockPhoto.
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  • I have known about QR codes for quite sometime now, I just don’t think it will really hit mainstream until people understand really how they can be leveraged.

  • David Hurdon

    The code/tag phenomenon is certainly interesting to watch. Where I had lunch yesterday there were three separate QR code campaigns available – in the mens’ room. I like to see poll results on the number of men likely to pull out a camera while standing at a urinal. Another of my favourites of late is on the Toronto subway system. A QR code on a poster mounted just above the seat back. To scan it I would have to have awakened the woman sitting in front of it. And had I done that I’m not sure where it would have taken me given that we were deep underground, with no wireless service. But the LLBean catalogue offered a TAG linking to a very good video on recreating some of their covers of long ago. And I’m a fan of V-Cards in QR, making the adding of a contact so, so much easier than getting out the big thumbs.

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  • Great article, Jeff! I agree that user experience is what is most important. Businesses need to realize that users already expect a mobile experience with their websites. I would love for you to consider reviewing my latest book on the topic, The Bootstrapper’s Guide to the Mobile Web. You can learn more at There are also hundreds of resources on that site that your readers should enjoy.

  • Hi Jeff,
    I have I agree about user behavior driving the technology decision instead of the reverse. The biggest stumbling block I have found is that although mobile users consume more content in a social manner, many are still not using QR codes.

    It depends on your business whether or not QR codes or mS tags are useful. For example, my customer is a retail store serving customers that are older. These customers are new to mobile technology and are using not adept at using QR readers. I would be much better off focusing on local based review sites like Yelp, Tripadvisor, or even Google Places.

    I actually have clients who are integrating social media to target local customers without ever asking if there is an easier way. I tell them to first focus on mobile search like google places to get their free listing and buil up reviews. Then check for other similar sites your target customers use while mobile (ie yelp). Last, integrate mobile landing pages and perhaps QR code technology. The Only time I would do those in reverse is if I have a customer promoting a campaign via print flyers.

    I then focus on the content of these mobile Landing pages based on desired action (ie call to order, signups for email, download coupon, or share with social networks.

    People are afraid of mobile optimization, but it is super simple. It is just a page with smaller width pages(approx 320 pixels) smaller graphics and video size and larger text.

    Does anyone know of any tools to make mobile landing pages for free?


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  • Hi David,
    That is a great point about QR vode usage. I am seeing them appear on every subway poster, but in man cases when scanned you have no connection so it doesn’t do anything except error out in your browser.

    The second point about quick contacts, I have started using QR codes for my business cards in tha way and also for adding a free offer to the back of my cards.

    One campaign for a client we added we codes to his business cards that linked to a video of him introducing himself and his product. Think of it as a learn more link on an about page. We could then track the link using analytics an compare with the # of cards distributed to check the response rate. The video landing page also had an optin to his newsletter.

    When using that approach you need to make sure you have a video landing page dedicated to that purpose (ie introducing yourself) and not some generic sales page.

    Sorry to rant, I get in the zone talking about his stuff. Good comments David!

    Careful with the camera at the urinal!

  • Exactly David – Ease of access is a primary benefit for using QR.  It’s much quicker than typing in a url – and  more reliable.

    In regards to the subway QR, that content can be accessed later (when you do have Internet access) using apps such as Qrafter and i-Nigma that bookmark the link.  More on how that works here:

  • As mobile goes mainstream – so will QR with it.  It’s just a matter of awareness. 

    At the moment I’m returning from a trip to a small town in Mexico where I was astonished at how much more prevalent mobile was than in many communities here in the US.  And now at 30,000 feet I have WiFi access.  Since more folks travel with mobile devices than a laptop as I do, QR would work just as nicely with in-flight magazines as with local small businesses.

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  • I understand the need for mobile marketing, but I have to admit that talk of QR codes and MS tags make my eyes glaze over. Anything technical like that I have to read several times to “get it’. Am I the only non-technical geek reading this? And am I a fool for even admitting it?

  • And even more recent is Google Goggles technology with obviate QR codes (sigh) 

  • Great stuff Jeff, especially the MS tags info. I knew about QR codes, but did not know that much about MS tags. Mobile is the future and small businesses need to get ready now. 

  • Eriedrifter

    I am right along with you Robert, We run a cherter fishing business and most of my customers are baby boomers retiring. My devil’s advocate tells me they wouldn’t know about QR codes and I believe the younger crowd no about them but there not booking the charter trips like the Boomers. I am considering having the mobile site built soon, however I wonder if I am just wasting dollars.

  • One_Finger_short_of_a_Hand

    Can I put a bit of a dampener on this, from this side of the pond. Having spoken to retailers, they are very nervous of QR and anything that can connect their instore customers to the web (though the technology and sites are already out there doing this with barcodes). The trepidation comes from a customer scanning a QR on a product and being taken to a comparison site rather than an information flash page. The latter is also concerning them, that a supplier might choose to use their flash page to deliver a special offer.

    They are also concerned that unscrupulous people will stcik other QRs over them and lead to their customers phones being hit by a virus while in their store.

    I know there are solutions to this, but Brits are a cautious and sometimes hysterical lot. There is an opportunity for a trusted site, where the freedom to create QR’s is moderated and trademarked. Now there is an opportunity! (or have I missed one out there?)

  • No question its time to be getting ready for mobile, especially to do it right. Look for more capabilities to be integrated into that MS platform – with all of them being mobile. 

  • Erie Drifter – I just returned from a resort in Mexico where the majority are retired folks – or early to mid-boomers like myself.  The lobby was packed every day with folks using their iPads because that’s where the Internet signal was best.  They are definitely all about mobile – no computers, just tablets.

    And you are correct in your assumption that the younger crowd is not tuned into QR much at all – while in fact that are heavy users of mobile.  Go figure? 🙂

  • Customers are going to make comparisons.  They’ll do that with or without QR.  The challenge for retailers is using 2d codes to bring their differentiator – the in-store experience, to prospects via the mobile web, such that those prospects then want to go to the store.

    All of the what-if’s exist with or with 2d, but if they are indeed valid, the merchant would want to consider branded MS tags – not easily mistaken for bogus codes, and on a solid platform with a lower risk of viruses.

  • I don’t think that the problem is not enough people knowing about QR codes. I think the problem is not enough people caring. Because they think that the purpose of QR codes is just to be redirected to the company’s website. Seriously, people have no idea what potential they have. We just published this blog post with that stance:

  • Olaf

    Hi Keith,
    let’s start with your question: ‘tools to make a mobile landing page for free’
    I build mobile friendly websites and implement detection scripts on Homepages to redirect mobile users to them automatically. Part of the mobile optimized sites are landing pages if needed- all the stuff you might know so far, with bullet points, videos, you name it.
    This is coding and you have to know this stuff, otherwise you’ll waiste a lot of time.
    So why would you build this for free??? If you or your customer will make profit from it – pay for it.
    There is an old speech: If you don’t pay you will not pay attention.
    Really- this is much to much to ask for it as a gift.
    But yes there are free tools that simply queeze your pages into the smaller display, you have to zoom in and whatever- this simply will not help to solve the problem that mobile users are in a different mindset and usually not sitting in front of their computer, they expect different informations to see.

    You can simply get a taste of it by going here via pc first and by using your smartphone second – I designed this for a german driver school .

    Hope this helps


  • One_Finger_short_of_a_Hand

    Thanks Jeff… I could not agree more and I also feel that in horticulture that these are one of the best tools we can have. I will look into the branded MS tags. As I say the buzz is about QR at the moment and I mis-read the comment about branded in the article, understanding that to be the experience of the brand rather than branding of the tag.

  • Not at all.  There are lots of folks like us that are challenged with technology  However, I’ve come to learn that because of it, we tend to find more practical uses for technology.  When you go deeper with tech because you have to – you find the practical applications that others miss.

  • Dsramthun

    Considering that 50% of searches are done on mobile devices, how could a mobile website be wasting dollars? The time has come where it is essential for nearly every business to get mobile websites. Mobile marketing is the future and if your not mobile friendly, your competition will thank you for it.

    Dan Ramthun
    Local Marketing Concepts

  • Your welcome!  Well, I owned and operated a landscape design/build company for 20 years, so we have something in common.  A couple years ago I did an article on my site about the possible applications for using QR in hort … plant selection, cultural requirements, planting instructions, watering, pruning, fertilization, and cultivation instructions … the list just kept growing.  No limits 🙂

  • You’ve got a nice handle on this Keith – i.e. that the codes are just triggers for customer experience.  There are a few sources for free mobile landing pages (websites). ShareSquare is one that comes to mind.

  • One_Finger_short_of_a_Hand

    Now that is sorted, I will set about sifting the whaet from the chaff… a lot of poor advice out there, even from main players. Perhaps it is time for the GardenExaminer… doh… it’s gone! I have seen on a friends phone, a fantastic barbeque app that would fit pretty well with horticulture… it was based around Clic2C. Which is a safer way around QR and MS tag, but not sure it will ever take off

  • Jim Teresinski

    Product recognition is already here. People can already just be in a store and snap a photo of a product for a comparision search. Theres many article with info on this – heres one:

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  • Here’s another one Keith:

  • Hi Jeff! Well explained about the concept of mobile marketing with QR codes and MS tags. I hope it would be more helpful to my friend.

  • QR code is a great invention people made. I’m making mobile apps currently and find it really cool to implement QR codes into them. I’m amazed at QR code coupons Snappii app builder allows to create. They are really helpful for small businesses.

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  • Jeff Nix

    Hi Jeff .. I’ve shared this very good article with our
    friends at Please feel free to post any of
    your QRC related writings with there on that page.

    Best regards,

    Jeff Nix  @

  • Thanks Jeff – I’ll check it out!

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  • Hi, Jeff. Thanks for the great post. Good stuff in here.

    I was in a store not long ago looking at Protein supplements. (I was training for a marathon and needed to learn more about how they help re-build muscle.)

    There were two primary brands in a massively-confusing display with multiple variations of each product. Guess which brand I chose? The one with the QR code on the packaging that helped me decipher the mish-mash of product options standing before me.

    That’s when I bought into the idea of QR codes as great marketing tools. They may be ugly, but they work.

    Thanks again for the post. It was very helpful indeed.

    Jamie Turner

  • Great article Jeff, we agree with your earlier comment about how QR codes will grow with mobile. Since mobile really has started to quickly grow over the last year we decided to implement them on our business cards. We’ve also noticed how curious people get when they see them. They’re a good talking point.

  • DonnaGilliland

    Excellent article.

  • I LOVE QR codes, and you can customise them for your business, too. Check out this gallery: of coloured QR codes using logos.  The only problem we found was bright colours don’t work due to the high contrast. As such, we had to opt for the darker colours, typcially black and red!

  • Thanks Donna – always an honor to get positive feedback from a colleague. 🙂

  • Jamie – We have more in common than I realized. I’ve only done one marathon, but that led to hundreds of triathlons over a couple of decades. 

    When seconds count, information that is coupled with the wisdom of experience is gold. 

    I don’t compete anymore, but I still train for the sheer joy of it!

  • Exactly!  Regardless of whether any of these 2d codes will have a long shelf life, the opportunity now is capitalizing on the curiosity factor.

  • We do have a lot in common, including training for the sheer joy of it.

    Are you back stateside? If so, let’s connect via Google+ or Skype. What works for you next week? I’m available most afternoons (Eastern Time). 

  • Jamie – I am, but heading back out again.  Nevertheless, I definitely will be making an effort to contact you as there are a couple of ideas I wanted to share.  Send me a Skype invite at my name no spaces.

  • Sounds good, Jeff. Skype request sent. Let me know when you want to connect and I’ll be sure to be on Skype at that time. I’m always interested in sharing/brainstorming ideas, so I look forward to connecting.


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  • Jeff, Good article.  Good stuff to use and share.  One comment about the MS codes.  I just don’t believe you can get the world to abandon QR codes and general purpose QR scanners and get everyone to jump on the Microsoft approach.  It seems to me that a retailer, for example, should not use MS tags as it requires too much of his potential customer and fails to deliver immediate value.  Your thoughts?

  • I think the largest problem with QR codes is the boring black and white and the lack of promotion once it is scanned (or over promotion). QR codes need to be graphically appealing and different from the free standard. The other thing that gets me fired up is when you scan a QR code and all it does is take you to an ad with no value whatsoever to the user for engaging. 

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  • alexandra.kwc

     QR code is a great invention people made. I’m making mobile apps currently and find it really cool to implement QR codes into them. I’m amazed at QR code coupons app builder allows to create. They are really helpful for small businesses.

  • Good question – My belief is the better prospects are those that are willing to do their homework. They are the ones that will use QR codes and MS tags.

    As mobile technologies move forward, it is likely that we will move beyond 2d codes to NFC, image recognition, and much more. Microsoft knows this and is trying to create a platform to engage those tech savvy consumers – who presumably bring their friends along too. 

    At this point it’s too early to tell, and that is one reason why retail marketers should straddle both QR and MS codes until this whole thing shakes out. 

    The one thing we know for sure is mobile is racing forward at breathtaking speeds. When it goes mainstream, branded codes may have the lead – or QR and some of the emerging technologies. 

    Not knowing which, I’m planning on staying current with all of them. That would be my recommendation to marketers.

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  • Jeff

    Hi Jeff,

    Well written and presented article on QR codes MS Tags.  One of the challenges with this technology is that the creator of the QR/Tag doesn’t capture the actual lead.  If using a tiny URL, they can track how many visitors to that URL, but that’s it.  I believe more and more folks will start using QR codes to initiate an SMS and capture the mobile number using a text messaging platform.


  • Now there are custom QR Code generators available. We offer a premier custom QR Code generator at
    Free black-and-white/color generator available as well. Stop by when you have a moment…

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