3 Reasons to use MS Tags (not QR Codes)

“QR Codes are so 2010!”

That’s what I tried explaining to Jimmy Fallon tonight when he used a giant QR (Quick Response) Code in Stephen Colbert’s spoof of Rebecca Black’s “Friday” song.

It’s time to advance.

In the era of $49 iPhones, smart phone usage is skyrocketing and leaders are trying to connect clients to their digital presence through traditional offline marketing materials.  In the past, QR Codes were the way.

(Not familiar with QR Codes?  Check out the black & white image to the right.)

If you’ve never used QR Codes before, don’t worry.  As far as I’m concerned, there is no reason to use them in a marketing campaign ever again (they are going the way of the VHS tape, floppy disk, or land line phone).

It is time to start using MS (Microsoft) Tags in any offline marketing you are doing that asks customers to call a number, take your contact information, or go to a website.  Why not make it easy for your customers to call you, connect with you, or find your site without typing anything?

Here’s why MS Tags are better than QR Codes:

1) MS Tags can be 44% smaller.

When designing beautiful and effective marketing pieces, space is valuable.  MS Tags offers us a smaller option.

Here is the minimum dimensions for each:

  • MS Tag (color):  0.75 inch
  • MS Tag (b&w):  0.875 inch
  • QR Code:  1 inch

Note:  QR Codes get bigger as you add more information to them (longer message, number, or URL)

2) MS Tags offer flexibility.

QR Codes are permanently linked to whatever is programed into the code.  MS Tags can be switched to whatever message, website, phone number, or vCard (electronic business card) you want, whenever you want.   By using an MS Tag, you don’t have to switch the tag you use on your business card, marketing flyer, etc. every time you switch messages or strategies.

It makes sense in a fast paced world.

3)  MS Tags build in tracking.

Every time someone scans your MS tag, it is tracked and made available to you in a report.  QR Codes do not offer any sort of tracking ability.  This is a huge advantage, since metrics should be the basis for all marketing decisions.  ROI is key and MS Tags can help adjust your strategy on the fly.

In addition to the above three reasons, there are other advantages such as faster scanning, more supported languages (6),  location based GPS campaign customization, and tag design customization (you can design the tag to look more like a picture).  I personally have used QR Codes & MS Tags in marketing campaigns and from personal experience I can confidently recommend the MS Tag to my fellow 8pm Warriors.

If you’re curious how they work, grab your smart phone and try scanning the two pictures on the upper right or check out “3 Examples of MS Tags in Marketing“.  Let me know what you think.

Have a great night,



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Published by Aaron Biebert

I'm a director, film/video exec producer, leader & 8pm Warrior. I am passionately chasing my goals at all times. I'm listening. Let's talk!

20 comments on “3 Reasons to use MS Tags (not QR Codes)”

  1. 1) MS Tags can be 75% smaller.

    Using your numbers 0.75^2 is 43.75% not 75% smaller than 1^2. However smaller is not necessarily better, for example the balloon QR Code on the cover of the New York Times Magazine, the Calvin Klein billboard, the displays in Times Square etc. Have you ever seen a supersized MS Tag?

    2) MS Tags offer flexibility.

    Actually MS Tags are not as flexible as QR Codes. You can do everything with a QR Code that you can do with an MS Tag including redirection. However once you have created your MS Tag you are stuck with Microsoft, with a QR Code you can use and change to any management system you like.

    3) MS Tags build in tracking.

    They do but you get the tracking stats that Microsoft provide not necessarily the ones you want. There are many QR Code management systems that provide superior tracking analytics.

    You forgot to mention reach. There are probably several thousand percent more QR Code scanners on smartphones than MS tag scanners.

    I actually like MS Tags but I also like my clients and they need a ROI not a comforter.

  2. Hi Roger,

    Thanks for pointing out my math error (I meant that MS Tags can be 75% of a QR Code). Good catch, I made the adjustment.

    As for size, I’m 99% sure that MS Tags scale just as well as QR Codes. Anyone have evidence otherwise? Also, why wouldn’t you want a smaller tag on your business card or poster?

    Tracking: I understand that there are ways to redirect QR Codes to another link that has robust tracking built in. However, after using both systems, I find that the average user will prefer the simplicity of MS Tags.

    Yes, Microsoft owns it, but they also own hotmail and many folks have no problem relying on that free system.

    Roger, I understand that your business is related to QR Codes, but isn’t there a way to convert your business over to MS Tags?

    Thanks for the comments.

  3. Sure I could use MS Tags for clients if it was better for them but at the moment MS Tags are not even on the same playing field.

  4. I’d love to hear more. I have no bias or interest in seeing either one succeed, but my research is fact based. Not much you can dispute. To me, it looks like MS Tags are smaller, faster, and smarter.

    One reader (@Fondalo) made this comment via twitter:

    “@Biebert not a space I know well but u make a good case. I think the main drawback is most designers are largely anti anything ms. Nice piece”

    Roger, is Microsoft your main concern? I’d like to hear more.

  5. There is not much more to tell except I am not anti-microsoft. If it looks to you like MS Tags are smaller, faster and smarter that’s fine by me.

  6. I’m with Roger, MS tags are not what I would recommend to my clients at this time (yet). There’s not enough to convince me of the technical advantages of MS tags over the QR code standard on the one hand; on the other hand, as far as my research can tell me the spread of MS tags scanners is very much below the reach of QR Codes.

  7. We researched both QR and MS Tag and decided to go with Tags. We use them in conjunction with several of our software products. One implementation is a wine tag (wineinfotag.com) and another is part of our facility management software as equipment tags that return maintenance history, nameplate data, and warranty info (micromain.com).

    In the next few weeks we will be releasing what I believe will be the first tag management platform. It provides a simple way for any organization to create, manage, and present information using MS Tags (immediatag.com — stil UC).

  8. Paco, congrats on choosing Tags. I was starting to feel outnumbered. :-)

    @Elliott, thanks for sharing.

  9. Sorry, Aaron, I think you’re going to be pretty outnumbered on this one. There isn’t anything a MS Tag can do that isn’t easy to do with a QR code.

    1) The older guidelines of 1″ minimum size for QR codes are pretty outdated. The overwhelming majority of SmartPhones now have better cameras with macro capabilities. Our testing indicates that as small 1/2″ for printed QR codes is fine for shorter codes. Smaller than that is probably too small for most humans to really notice, but my phone can scan a healthy 29×29 QR code at 0.2 inches.

    2) All QR code management services allow you to dynamically change where a code redirects to. If you’re looking for one that is really simple and free, check out delivr.

    3) All QR code management services provide rich analytics as well.

    There are plenty of things you can’t do with MS Tags (e.g. bulk creation of 1 million+ unique codes on a DM piece, for instance), but the biggest challenge for Microsoft is that the Tag Reader doesn’t enjoy nearly the market share that QR code readers do. Compare number of downloads and comments in the Android Marketplace, for instance. (Barcode Scanner has 10M-50M downloads and 190k+ comments. MS Tag Reader has 500k-1M downloads and 3k comments.)

    1. Phil, thanks for the great comment. I’m not married to MS Tags, just looked at the my experiences with both. It sounds like QR Codes are making some steps forward. I love the information you provided and will definitely check into that. I would assume that MS Tags are also going down in size as well, but it’s good to know that there are free, simple QR Code management services that provide redirection and analytics.


    2. Hi Phil,

      I wanted to address a couple points you make. Tag’s API actually does allow for Tags to be produced in bulk. That is a misnomer we have seen in a couple places so I’m glad you gave the opportunity to clear that up.

      Our goal at Tag is to offer a easy, predictable solution for users and businesses using 2D barcodes. A big pain point for many in the space is that you don’t really know what your getting with a given QR service. Some offer rich reporting (which they usually charge for) or other services, but Tag offers an end to end solution that is free for everyone. We also continue to invest in new capabilities such as device ID and real time location that can be used to deliver more targeted experiences for consumers.

      In terms of the format debate between Tag and QR, although we feel that Tag offers more options and ability to customize, the format is not as important as the backend experience. QR is just a trigger just as tag is a trigger. We are exploring other triggers that may link a person’s environment with a digital experience to continue innovating in the space.


      Nick Martin
      Online Community Manager
      Microsoft Tag

  10. Great post! I’m the Online Community Manager for Tag. We have been getting a lot of great feedback on our Tag solution. I’m glad you highlighted our geo-location services.

    One thing that you might also be interested in is the Device ID feature. By recognizing a users device, our solution enables a different experience to be delivered depending on how many times a user has scanned a Tag.


    Nick Martin
    Online Community Manager
    Microsoft Tag

  11. Nice post, thank you. I became aware of MS Tag only recently when I saw it in an in-flight magazine. My initial thought was “Why?” Doesn’t this fragment and frustrate adoption of 2D barcode technology? Is this going to be the Sony Memory Stick of symbology: technically superior but too highly proprietary?

  12. No one seems to have noticed that you stated MS Tag supports more languages. Huh? QR can support any language, including double-byte Chinese. One other thing, there are specialized devices called “verifiers” that can check the quality of the printed QR Code symbol. (They’re used for regular bar codes and Data Matrix symbols as well.) No such device exists for MS Tag.

  13. Aaron, as a consumer and a small business operator I appreciate you taking the time tor write about new technologies. However as someone who works with mobile technologies it’s rather infuriating to find articles like this on the net! Not only has there been little due diligence done prior to writing the post there has been no corrections added after numerous readers have pointed out your errors. Content like this makes it difficult for marketers to identify the appropriate solution.

    I love Microsoft, and nearly all of my software (including my phone) is developed by them. However when it comes to 2D Codes, Microsoft Tags serve virtually no purpose other than taking a technology that’s based on a universally accepted standard and making it proprietary.

    Our platform Scanvee (http://www.scanvee.com), and we’re not alone, allows the marketer to create consistently small codes with functions that far exceed those currently available through Microsoft. The codes are always dynamic and can be re-linked to new content at any time. Most important is of course the comprehensive reporting that’s linked to every code. What our platform does for a universally accepted technology Microsoft has taken and attempted to monopolize under a proprietary format.

    Don’t be fooled to think that Tags are free. They are offered for free today only in order to gain momentum over the tried, tested and true QR Code.

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