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In The News
A Marketer’s Perspective on Mobile Tagging Technology

December 2, 2009

Published by The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA)
Written by Bryce Marshall

Mobile tagging is the category term for the creation and rendering of a two-dimensional bar code that is a link to an online experience, accessed through a mobile device. Each 2-D code, or tag, is encoded with specific information such as a Web URL, a phone number, or a person’s contact information. Once a tag is scanned or photographed it creates the link to a specified webpage, dials a voice call, or downloads contact information. Mobile tags are commonly used to link the physical and digital worlds within the context of a very specific location.

Marketers considering tagging tactics quickly discover a large and muddled technology and provider landscape. Which tagging technology makes sense for your campaign? Here is a key benefits breakdown of some of the most popular solutions.

Software-based Solutions

These tagging solutions require a downloaded software application, which turns the mobile device’s camera lens into an optical scanner. Aim the lens at a tag and the program scans and decodes the information, linking a mobile browser to a URL, for instance. In a few cases the scanning software is pre-installed on the mobile device. Otherwise, users are required to go to a provider’s website and download software to participate.

QR codes
“Quick Response” is the most recognized 2-D code format and commonly used throughout Asia and Europe. The code format is not proprietary and many providers offer applications for creating, rendering, and scanning tags.

Microsoft Tag
Microsoft has a proprietary code format and well-developed tools for rendering, managing, and scanning tags. Microsoft Tags are quickly recognized by their CMYK color scheme.

ScanLife was early to the North American market and is now a well-established provider with a proprietary code format and scanning software pre-loaded on some devices.

What to make of it…
Software-based solutions represent a double-edged sword. On one side they deliver the slick, user-friendly tag interactions that create exceptional brand experiences. On the other side the software application requirement poses a barrier to adoption for many potential users, regardless of their device type.

Use it…
  • For technically savvy target audiences
  • For campaigns with a concentration in major metropolitan markets that leverage outdoor media like posters and digital displays
  • For delivering a premium experience
  • For an improved brand perception

  • Software-free Solutions

    Software-free solutions aim to deliver similar interactions, but do not require a dedicated program. Instead, software-free solutions leverage technologies already found on virtually all mobile devices: camera, MMS, picture mail, and email. A user literally takes a picture of the tag, and uses the device’s MMS, picture mail, or email options to send the image to the provider. The provider recognizes the image and replies appropriately with an embedded URL, images/video, or a phone number.

    JAGTAG is pioneer of software-free solutions that leverage MMS, email, and Twitter to drive interactions. JAGTAG is marketed as an attractive alternative to software-based solutions.

    Similar to JAGTAG with an interesting twist – the brand’s logo is the central component of the tag design, delivering a clearly branded tagging experience.

    What to make of it…
    The theory is the more comfortable a consumer is with the base technologies involved, the more useable the solution becomes for mass audiences and the fewer barriers to adoption. The trade-off is a user experience involving more steps with a slower pay-off.

    Use it…
  • For deep reach with a mass audience where less emphasis is placed on the overall user experience and brand perception
  • For broad-based campaigns across markets and demographics with more print media in play
  • For less technically savvy audiences

  • Analyzing the Options

    I prefer and recommend software-based solutions. The superior user experience is my primary consideration in most cases, and therefore the prevailing factor. I find the Microsoft Tag solution provides the best tools for rendering, managing and scanning tags. The software is widely available across device types and the download process is user-friendly. The scanning feature is fluid, fast, and consistent. Most importantly Microsoft has the muscle to push both marketer and consumer awareness and adoption, positioning the solution as the ubiquitous tag technology in North America.

    There are valid concerns with potential barriers-to-adoption regarding scanning software. The technology and provider decision ultimately has to be made with the marketing goals and target audience realities in mind.

    About the author: Bryce Marshall is the Director of Strategic Services for Knotice. Bryce works with new and existing clients to define strategies and plans for more powerful and profitable application of direct digital marketing programs. Contact Bryce at For more information about Knotice visit or their blog

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