Based on recent questions from clients and the continued level of interest in our previous blog post, What are QR codes and how are data-driven marketers using them to educate consumers?, it’s clear to me that digital marketers want to know more about 2D barcodes as well as the most effective methods of incorporating them into their digital marketing strategy. And most of them are asking the same questions: when it comes to QR codes and Microsoft (MS) Tags, which reigns dominant in the 2D barcode feud and which one will provide the highest level of consumer engagement?

Decide whether to incorporate MS Tags or QR codes in advertising using an advantage verses disadvantage analysis with regard to the visual and utility elements of each. When determining which type of 2D barcode to use, there are some key things to keep in mind. Here’s a few of them, as well as a comparison of how MS Tags and QR codes stack up to one another within each category.

Visual Appeal & Recognition
Depending on the creative direction of your campaign, choosing between MS Tags and QR codes for an integrated marketing strategy may come down to which 2D barcode provides the most flexibility for your design. When it comes to visual appeal, both barcodes have their pros and cons. Basic MS Tags can be formatted as a series of colored triangles, but they also allow for much more customization. If you design the code using dots instead of triangles, you’re actually able to lay a photo or graphic of your choice behind the dots – perfect for incorporating your logo or similar branding elements. A third option is to use stylized icons. The question that comes into play with such a great level of customization, though, is whether consumers will still recognize your MS Tag as a scannable barcode. With QR codes, on the other hand, the option for customization exists, but the end result still resembles a barcode. And because they’re used more frequently than MS Tags, consumers are more likely to recognize QR codes in advertising.

Creating, Scanning & Tracking
It’s probably safe to say QR codes win this one. Because MS Tags are proprietary, there is only one mobile app that will allow users to create and scan them. Tags also require an Internet connection and have problems scanning on a curved surface, whereas QR codes don’t. Plus, QR codes are an open source technology, so they can be created and scanned using a variety of mobile apps while putting you in control of your own data. With MS Tags, Microsoft steps in between you and the consumer, storing and controlling your data in its proprietary system.

The complete list of differences between 2D barcodes could go on for awhile, but these are some of the more crucial characteristics you should take into account when deciding whether to use MS Tags or QR codes in advertising. Regardless of which you choose, educating consumers on what the barcode is and how to use it is vital. That, paired with a strategic game plan for MS Tag or QR code marketing and a detailed goal set, will improve your ROI and give you a better chance for success.