As much as I pay attention and focus on 2D barcode strategy and tactics, there is one thing that I have noticed lacking in most every single strategic campaign, if not all of them. Testing. Whether it's testing calls to action, scan resolves, code size, code placement, code instructions, code types (e.g., QR, Tag, JAGTAG, etc.), or code symbols (e.g., branded vs. generic, black/white vs. color, etc.), or even one publication or channel versus another, it seems as though companies don't have the same interest in testing, as if they do for a direct mail or email campaign, banner ad, landing page, product page, etc., and I wonder why.

Even though I have seen two or three companies place 2D barcode advertisements for multiple months in multiple publications, they end up using the very same ad over and over again with no recognizable modifications. If this is the case then how do they analyze and determine ROI? How can they tell what component of the ad made it a success or, for that matter, a failure?

Obviously, companies are spending (investing) good money in the creation and placement of their 2D advertisements, so why not follow marketing best practice and test. Even if a company did not wish to test the ad for the ad's sake, wouldn't they at least want to test the use of 2D technology, how well it is received by consumers and what kind of affect it has on the objectives set for the ad. So who and or what's to blame? Are companies and their agencies just loosing sight of this essential aspect of marketing? Are there too many people, departments, fiefdoms involved with the creation of a 2D ad, so no one knows who should be responsible for the tests and they just don't get done? Or maybe companies haven't thought through the strategic aspects of a 2D campaign due to a lack of knowledge and or experience, which makes sense since 2D is new for just about everyone here in the U.S.

If a 2D advertisement performs less than desired, I have a hunch marketing executives will find fault with the code itself, not the overall creative execution or strategic direction of the ad, and perhaps never do a 2D ad in the near future, which is a shame, because 2D offers a great deal of value and benefit to both consumers and businesses alike. But, if the company proactively tested, they would be able to tell whether it was the code, or any other element for that matter, which caused success or failure, and this brings me back to the premise of this post. Testing should be viewed as an essential aspect of any 2D campaign.

(Should you know of any company actually testing their 2D campaign please let me know, as I would welcome the opportunity to learn about their methodology and findings.)


  1. Gayle NelsonAugust 30, 2010

    We all need to get back to basics and implement best practices. Whether a company uses an outside source for reporting analytics or not, take the extra steps needed to find out what works and doesn't work.

  2. Gayle: Thank you for your comment. It would be shocking to know that any company is not adhering to basics, especially in an economy and environment like this. I read so much about marketers needing to justify every dollar spent, so how can they not test when it comes to 2D ads/campaigns.

  3. I think some of the companies are just excited and have just jumped on the bandwagon figuring the ad looks "cool and new" since they have included the 2D code. I have already seen poorly done ads that lead to poor and unusable pages. You don't get a pass for bad content and direction just because you are one of the first to have it in your ad.

  4. Charity: Thank you for the comment. Exactly my point and, frankly, this is not all that much different from Facebook and Twitter a couple of years ago. Companies threw themselves into developing these pages and sites, but had no social marketing strategy behind it. Some companies still don't. So why bother.

  5. Hi Roger,
    You make some very good points. One of the key benefits of integrating 2D codes into traditional media is that one can now measure the effectiveness of that messaging. However we are still some distance away from that truly being a reality. Where as direct marketing campaigns or banner ads are designed exclusively to generate an intended response: do they click, do they call, do they buy? Plus, campaigns are evaluated in detail on effectiveness and ROI. Smart marketers know which offer, placement, or ad format pulls better and work to refine the mix.

    With code scanning, despite its potential for analytics, we are not yet seeing it fully used as such. Unfortunately we have relatively low adoption of readers and understanding of code scanning. Thus evaluating an ad's effectiveness based on how many viewers scanned a code would too often not be valid. That said, it is essential that we have some more data on what is working and different approaches and technologies. For example, I would love to see data that would compare the response rates of QR Codes vs. other formats such as Microsoft Tag. What is the right call to action, etc. We all need input do define best practices and to help this industry grow.

  6. Jim: Thank you for the comment. Yes, I agree it may be too early to conduct any kind of scientific or statistically correct testing in that the population size might not be big enough, etc., but in just a broad sense I would think that companies would just do some basic testing to get an idea of what may or may not work better. But a lot of this also goes back to what I have been talking about for sometime now, let's start hearing from the companies and agencies actually running the campaigns and maybe we can all learn together.

  7. This is a very good subject! I have over 30 years in barcode technology, most of which involved some aspect of improving quality. I am truly excited about the prospects for this (my) technology being used by the public for a wide range of applications and being linked to the widespread use of smartphones, the next computing platform.
    However, I am concerned about the 'wild west' attitude that exists at this time in this group of marketers. I am concerned that one significant (or many) errors will occur and be visible to the masses. The damage could be just financial but it could also be catastrophic. Imagine a campaign that involves a contest or a coupon that has some potential value. Imagine that the promotional material is printed with either an unreadable code or on fax paper. When the target audience tries to scan the code to redeem the value they find it cannot be scanned or has disappeared from the paper (a fax image is not permanent!!). Now you have an audience out there all thinking that they won, all trying to collect, ticked off and a sponsoring company that has a problem.
    On a smaller scale, just think about all the potential customers that get unnecessarily frustrated because they have a difficult time scanning a poorly formatted barcode……and then are disappointed when they finally do scan it and see the content. The experience was not rewarding and they may not try the next time!
    Here are a few tips:
    Don't waste people’s time - they get ticked off
    Forget designer codes - that is a fancy way of saying that you do not have to follow standards - you do if you want to get the most return for the investment – use ISO/ANSI standards to get the best results and to protect yourself/clients
    Do not ignore DataMatrix - it is better than QR in that it can hold more data in a smaller symbol - or can be scanned easier at greater distances than the same sized QR – the buzz is around QR but that is just historical
    Test to make sure the app really works completely
    Test to make sure the audience perceives value before you release the app broadly
    Your plan must include a method of measuring performance – hits, pages per hit, eventual outcome, sales, etc. – money. If you are offered a proposal that does not include good feedback then you are throwing your money into the wind.
    Don’t make a mistake - you could screw it up for everyone

  8. Rule #1 for all Marketers: Don't concept anything unless to are joined to the hip with your Marketing Ops and Marketing Analyst before you implement. They can't ensure your campaign will work or be measured accurately if you don't involve them early!