thoughts and decisions for a creative edge

Microsoft TAG re-invents the QR Code

– “Let’s re-invent the wheel when it works…” Right? And re-veal it to the world! –

Came across an announcement on the release of MicroSoft TAG app using HCCB technology. On first glance I thought, ” Now, why’d they have to do that?”

I remember 2 years ago when I got my N95 that it had this BarCode reader function built-in. Did anybody in Europe actually use that technology? For a while, I thought its going to be the future of super market shopping! Tag your product and then scan your payment through at the cashier(less) counter on your way out. All by using your smart phone. Right??! Nop. The technology just never caught on here.


Apparently, that is how its being used in Japan. You scan the product you intend to buy then place it in your shopping basket then complete your payment via either scanning your bank code at the cashier or (like in Australia) complete that retail purchase via encrypted sms banking as introduced by NAB.

Dutch supermarket franchise Albert Hein is almost close to this. The only exception is that you pick up the chunky bar code reader from the front of store. You then scan as you shop, with your cart’s value and item listed on the scanner, and then swipe your card at the exit without having any human intervene at all. The bar code reader is returned to its dock and its batteries re-charge for the next registered shopper that comes in. Scan and Go. Clean – but not as green. They COULD eliminate that bar code reader altogether in future equation with the emergence of secured mobile banking and of course the application of this codes in todays’ smart phones. Each tagged product would not only show its pricing, but when purchased, also be given the opportunity to ‘advertise for free’ by leaving URLs that could be accessed later on whenever the customer please. There is more to this. Since the data exchanged can be used for a broader spectrum of possibilities, just think what companies could do with efficient market research data collection. Of course then, there need to be a buyer and distributor agreement for such a transaction to take place. But that’s definitely the near future. And a lot of security measures to be planted on privacy issues of sort.


QR Code two years ago was already the future in Japan. You get codes printed on bus ads, banners, magazines, food products, etc, you name it. The codes are great because they’re small. It gives designers the complete canvas to be creative with ideas without the clutter and worry of text placements for that dreaded boring URL. OK I may be exaggerating there. But after scanning, interested customers are quickly brought into the product realm within their mobile device. Given the lightning speed of mobile communication in Japan, large information could be transfered instantaneously. They could be watching the video advertisement directly from the clouds of your very own server, further saving the costs for magazine prints, radio or tv adverts.


With the emergence of more 3G phones globally, Microsoft tries to add some color to the rest of the world. And of course by that, they’d want a piece of pie to control this upcoming trend. Its a new and improved way of selling the idea of an already existing system. Only this time, polished by MS. Enter Microsoft TAG…


The Tag creation option is currently available for free on its Beta stage. You need to have a current Microsoft Live or hotmail account and you’re set to create your TAG. The fact that you can place a duration date greatly helps. This will void a TAG which becomes handy for fixed-date product promotion. Think stickers or badges. Even though I prefer the looks of the QR code more than MS’s colored forms, there’s more behind its ‘pastel’ technology. Right now its just a matter of form over function. And definitely a great great plus for advertising companies.

With QR Code, the only way to monitor its response is from the date of event itself. With MS TAG you can monitor in real time. You log into your tag account and on the statistics chart it shows how many times somebody actually flashed their phone to ‘view’ your advertisement.

This becomes a highly important statistics for advertisors. How often have companies placed their ads in magazines and blindly left to guess how it did in response to sales? Chances of consumers viewing the picture/slogan and going on to the following page or bulletin is left to chance. On the other hand if its MS TAGged, the information is relayed to the advertiser right away. By default that adverts would remain in the mobile device for later viewing. How many times have you forgotten to clip that coupon where that perfume or DVD is going on 50% discount, just until you got somewhere near the store and say, “Damn, that ads sitting at home!” Now you can tell if the ads placed on say the train station is less effective than what’s placed in front of the ladies restrooms!

Here’s what it says on Microsoft’s page. “Creating tags is easy, and during our beta, free! Just supply the text or the URL to a mobile page you want to display when the Tag is snapped, and we’ll instantly create a Tag you can use. Come back and monitor Tag analytics or create some more.”


Chart above shows how many times the Microsoft TAG I created in Flickr has been scanned for ‘viewing’.

Thus TAG creators can now see in real time how many times your TAG has actually been scanned. It works similarly like Google analytics for URLs visits. THIS is a huge step forward. THIS MONITORING OPTION IS NOT AVAILABLE WITH QR CODES. It gives a cost effective way on how or where to improve your ads. And remember, this is your phone sending the 2 way data to Microsoft each time you scan an ad. Its just time before you get GPS input on which location the TAG is most ‘viewed’ at.

But crikey!? Would this give rise to a customer privacy issue? Only time will tell. This wold mean that Microsoft have upper hand info on what you’ve scanned, collecting data from individuals, knowing exactly what ads you’ve scanned based on interest. Remember that web-based mobile devices has its own IP to be able to be on the web for such data transfer to happen. Yes, somebody is watching over you. Should we be worried. Who will MS give this data to? Next thing you know, advertisement pop-ups will start appearing on your mobile cell phone. Or even through your home mail box. Did telephone companies say they will not share your home address? Yep its definitely possible. Your information is value to one business or the other. Information trading is big money these days.

Tag Reader is available for free download for most mobile phones and on iTunes for the iPhone. And whether you’re going to go with QR Code or Microsoft Tag, I think its all a matter of what’s trendy and what’s not. But many in the applied field of business marketing and advertising seems to have already chosen.

Hope its not that too complicated to see who’s tagging you. Thanks for reading.

* PS I am in no way a marketing surveyor. But it doesn’t take much to read and understand onto which direction information technology is going, especially when its handled by Microsoft. Do leave a comment if you agree or disagree about this blog. And don’t worry, it just helps me to know if I’m blabbering all for the wrong/right reasons. ; )

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One response

  1. D

    Actually monitoring has been available for QR Codes for a very long time. Long before MS Tags was launched. Check out http://insqribe.com

    February 23, 2009 at 6:08 am

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