2D Barcodes in 2011

During the past several weeks, a number of people have asked for my opinion and/or prediction on the future of 2D barcodes in 2011, so, I thought, why not share them and post them here for all to see.

Read through most any major publication today, whether it be a magazine or newspaper, and chances are there will be one, two, maybe three advertisements, which feature a 2D barcode. Compare this fraction of a number to all of the other advertisements that appear in publications and it’s easy to see the growth potential for 2D barcodes. And, mind you, I didn’t mention anything about out of home, in-store, packaging, direct mail, email, general collateral, trade show, event, television or Internet--all other mediums/channels that can accommodate and showcase 2D barcodes.

To know the potential of 2D is one thing, but to say that 2D will finally become main stream in the coming year, as some predict, is quite another. Please don’t misunderstand my comments. I am very optimistic about the future of 2D, it’s just that some issues need to be sorted out first if the technology is really going to take off and grow, and the issues that I consider to be key are probably not on everyone’s radar.

While many cite the lack of pre-loaded reader apps, the fragmentation of code reader apps and the lack of a clear code champion (i.e., a single code type) as the factors which will prevent the industry and technology from growing that much more and that much quicker, I believe it is something quite different. In my mind, what hinders the industry and technology is campaign creative execution and offering. Here's why.

If a consumer scans 10 2D barcode advertisements and seven, eight or nine of the advertisements either don’t work properly (i.e., the scan resolve fails in some shape or form), or the brand experience is not enhanced in any meaningful way, or the advertisement or offer does not provide any real or perceived value to the consumer then chances are the consumer will not engage or interact with a 2D barcode advertisement in the future. Why would they? Why would you? At a certain point it becomes a matter of diminishing return. So, even if there becomes a clear code champion, pre-loaded code reader apps, a smartphone in every hand, etc., it all comes back how well a campaign/strategy is formulated and executed. Build decent campaigns and consumers will engage, otherwise they won't.

Maybe my thought on this is a bit simplistic, but based on all of the campaigns that I have analyzed and reviewed over the past several months, and there have been hundreds in total, this is the conclusion that I come to and the determinants that I believe will spell the future of 2D barcodes. Of course, I do not say all of this in a vacuum. The other factors mentioned above certainly play a role and, to a certain extent, it becomes a bit chicken and the egg, but to know that there have been some very successful campaigns created, the reason they have been successful is execution and offering.

In summary, for the 2D barcode industry to continue to grow and develop into the coming year it needs more of this and less of this. Brands and their agencies must realize that they are the ones that control 2D's fate, much more so than the code generators and service providers or telecom carriers.

As with any of my campaign reviews and other articles, I welcome any and all comments, suggestions or opinions. Thank you for supporting the work I do, I hope it is of value, and may I wish you a Happy New Year.


  1. Roger-- great post. I think you're right on the money. Like you, I’m huge fan of 2D bar codes, but I don’t think they’ll take off in 2011, mainly because of lack of user awareness and adoption as well as fragmentation of both codes and readers. I think retailers will experiment with them in 2011 in marketing campaigns and in-store product packaging, with those who take the extra step of educating the consumer & demonstrating the value of 2D bar codes being the real, clear winners (and innovators for future success)-- a big opportunity for smart retailers in 2011.


  2. Hello Roger,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. Excellent insights on your behalf.

    The Co-op that I work for has taken the next creative step and has introduced 2D QR codes in it's new monthly Taste magazine.

    So far I can tell you the numbers are looking good during these early stages (Good point: TV, Radio, etc.) with consumers finding 2D codes useful in their daily consumption of healthy news/information that hopefully helps to enrich their lifestyle.

    PCC Taste magazine - January 2011 - http://pcc.coop/hvnilX

    All the best in 2011!
    -Ricardo Rabago
    Social Media Specialist for PCC Natural Markets