Marketing & Mobile Barcodes

Collaboration – December 19, 2011


It’s the next big thing! It’s multiplying! It’s the mobile barcode. But beware! Lack of strategic planning of its use could deliver a poor user experience and execution.

Mobile barcodes, also known under one of its various format name such as QR Code (Quick Response), DataMatrix, Aztec, Microsoft Tag,SpyderLynk SnapTag, Scanbuy’s EZcode, are used by marketers for:

  1. Mobile activation: placed on marketing materials for users to activate, and
  2. Redemption at point of sale: digital format barcode on a user’s mobile phone intended to be scanned at point of sale for couponing or purchase redemption. (Couponing application of mobile barcodes will not be addressed in this post.)

“Call to action” for “out of home/office”

As consumers and business people carry and use mobile devices1 equipped with a camera and mobile barcode reader software, they are equipped to read mobile barcodes deployed on traditional media such as:

  • Product packaging
  • Advertisements in print, periodicals, and publications
  • Broadcast TV
  • Billboards

Scanning a code triggers an action:

  • Open a mobile web site,
  • Offer a coupon or deal,
  • Initiate a voice call,
  • Send an SMS,
  • Given the ability, make a purchase, pay a bill, or make a donation,
  • Vote, take a poll or enter a contest,
  • Opt-in for “push” communications,
  • Receive a company’s contact information
  • Download a mobile application or promotional content,
  • Post a message to a social networking site.


With the introduction of new technologies, marketers and clients must resist the temptation to use it because it’s next best thing that came out. Mobile barcodes are to be used in the appropriate content and intent to be effective. One of the most quirky applications of mobile barcodes is on websites. Why put up a QR code on a website when the user is certainly consulting it on an interactive device. The website being delivered on a mobile platform or not, it is the destination where one wants to direct a consumer or prospect. Same applies for emails. What’s the point of a QR code on a medium that already has all of its interactive possibilities and conventions? My take is either it will direct you to a really well-though mobile device experience or it covers up that fact that one doesn’t know how to create a mobile website with a good user experience… just a buzz on the wrong medium.

That being said, a QR code well placed on a traditional media with the intent to inform mobile users in a well-thought-out context is brilliant when the whole campaign is well planned.


That’s why one has to be clear on the expression of the motivation for one to scan a mobile barcode. “Watch the video”, “Buy now”, “Get more information”, “Get directions” are compelling call-to-action propositions to be clearly indicated to mobile users.


But putting up a mobile barcode is only the beginning of a whole marketing effort. Not only does the destination have to offer an appropriate user experience that will engage the user but it must be part of an overall plan. The twist is that users come from a mobile device. So content, user experience and context are different. Adapt!

Example: Consult Wikipedia on your mobile


So, my marketing friends and clients, let’s keep our cool. As new ways to engage with prospects with the help of exciting new technologies always pop up, resist temptation to just “look cool” and use it “just because”. Mobile barcodes are a great way to market when “out of the home/office” through traditional media and to engage with mobile device consumers and prospects.

Think strategically before using traditional and electronic media for marketing using mobile barcodes. Make sure to offer a compelling user experience for mobile users as websites and strategies have to be adapted.


Strategize. Think. Holistically. Mobile barcodes are an additional new tool in the marketing toolbox. Use them with intelligence in your “multi-media” mix and in your integrated marketing mix.

Learn more about mobile barcodes in marketing applications through the Mobile Marketing Association as it published in November 2011 a very insightful white paper titled “Mobile Barcodes: An Overview for Marketers”2.

Happy mobile barcoding!

1Mobile devices include smart phones as much as tablets (iPads) and other mobile devices with Internet connectivity such as iPods.
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