The Battle of the Mobile Action Codes

Sounds like a holiday action film, but there’s no blood and gore in this battle, if you can even call it that.

What is a Mobile Action Code? It’s those funny boxes that are showing up in magazine ads, on the sides of candidates buses, and even in airports. The idea is to scan them with your phone or smart phone and have that engage us in some form of digital action, often taking us to a web site or video.

They are being used, although most consumers have no idea what they are. And to add to the confusion, there are not three different formats which don’t really work together on most phones.

QR Code
The one you’ve probably seen the most is the QR Code. To scan them with your smart phone, you need to download a free app. Once you do, you can scan, and be transported to a web site, video, Facebook page, etc. The Advantage of the QR Code is that they are the most used right now, and they’re free. Disadvantage, only about 13% of smart phone users have the app, and, QR Codes are pretty ugly as graphics go.

Microsoft Tag
The Microsoft tag is either prettier, or gaudier than the QR Code, depending on your viewpoint. Magazines are starting to embrace it because it looks better, although it is generally believed that QR Codes get a better response. Down side, you’ve got to pay to create an MS Tag. That’s fine for Coca Cola, but hard on small businesses.

Snap Tag
The Snap Tag is loved most by Graphic Artists because it looks the best of the three. You can put your logo or other graphic inside the code ring. Before you get too excited, here’s how these things work: You take a photo with your phone, then text or email that photo to an address listed under the code, and that engages some kind of digital action. One advantage is that everyone who has a phone with a camera (About 88% do) can use the Snap Tag. With QR Codes and MS Tags, you just point your camera and it takes you to a website. With Sanp Tags, you still have to email or text, which might even cost you money, to start the action.

In the end, the users will determine which of these codes they prefer to use, if any. Only a fairly small number of people use them now, and I stopped using them after I tried a few out of curiosity. For right now, I’d stick with the QR Codes. They’re free, people are starting to recognize their use, and you can colorize them and make them look a little bit better.

What do you think?

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