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Two variables to consider when adding mobile bar codes

December 8, 2009

Nicole Skogg is CEO of SpyderLynk

Nicole Skogg is CEO of SpyderLynk

By Nicole Skogg

Marketers, advertising agencies and brand departments have been giving a lot of attention recently to the emerging mobile bar code market. 

And why not? Mobile bar codes offer marketers an exciting opportunity – increase the value of brand marketing and advertising by adding measurable interactive functionality.

With the placement of a mobile bar code, brands can give consumers access to information, multimedia content, promotional opportunities, retail store locations, discounts and samples from brand marketing materials.

Now, that is something worth talking about. But there might be more to the conversation than you know.

As the market grows nationwide, a number of different mobile bar codes have emerged. With these new mobile bar codes come a sea of new terminology and capabilities creating barriers to understanding and differentiating between them.

If you are considering adding a mobile bar code to your brand marketing efforts, there are two key variables to consider when choosing a solution: 

1. The degree of brand identity and customization you desire

2. The consumer experience and potential barriers to entry for participation

Pre-generated versus customized codes
Many of the more well-known mobile bar codes are pre-generated, meaning that the code has the same overall appearance regardless of the brand or product it is representing.

Alternatively, there are customized codes that are capable of incorporating a brand’s identity or artwork directly into the code itself.

Customized mobile bar codes can complement the advertising and reinforce the brand or product message.

Microsoft’s Tag is capable of including color and can be customized to include a background image, while our SnapTag uses a brand’s identity as the centerpiece of its mobile bar code. SnapTags are created with any brand logo or product image and SpyderLynk’s Code Ring Technology, which provides tracking and differentiation capabilities. 

Mobile applications versus snap-and-send
Depending on what type of mobile bar code you are using, the decoding and activation of the promised engagement occurs via one of two interfaces activated by the consumer:

1. Bar code reader – Code is read by a bar code reader mobile application

2. Snap-and-send – Code is read by the consumer snapping a photo of it and sending it to a number or email address

While a few handsets in the United States come with a bar code reader pre-installed, most consumers will have to download a bar code reader by visiting a Web site or an application store on their mobile camera phone.

In the U.S. there are multiple types of mobile bar codes requiring readers and multiple types of bar code readers.

While many readers can activate QR Codes, an open source code, proprietary mobile bar codes such as the EZcode and Microsoft Tag can only be read by code-dedicated reader applications.

In a world with multiple kinds of bar codes, consumers may have to find and download a reader for each type of bar code they want to activate.

Mobile bar codes offering snap-and-send functionality nationwide include SnapTags and JagTags.

Consumers use their camera phone to snap a photo of these mobile bar codes and send the photo to the number or email address provided. The bar codes are then decoded and the promised message or link is returned to the participating consumer via SMS or MMS messaging. 

These mobile bar codes do not require a bar code reader or any type of application download, making them usable for more than 200 million consumers nationwide.

The bottom line is that marketers nationwide have multiple options for activating their advertising.

All of the mobile bar codes mentioned above can increase brand engagement while providing sophisticated analytics about consumer behavior, as well as the effectiveness of brand marketing and media initiatives.

It is important to know that you have options and that you can choose the code that best fits your brand and marketing objectives.

Nicole Skogg is CEO of SpyderLynk, Denver, CO. Reach her at

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