Are 2D Barcodes Worth the Hype? A Response

On Thursday, an article appeared on Fierce Mobile Content's website titled, "Are 2D Barcodes Worth the Hype?" and although the author writes about 1,800 words in the article, I believe she fails to really answer her own question. Yes, the author provides a great deal of background information about the various 2D barcodes and platforms/vendors on the market and discusses some 2D marketing best practices, but none of what she writes about really addresses the issues of worth or hype.

First, let me speak to worth. In my mind, to talk about worth is to talk about the cost of something versus the return which that something can or does provide. So to figure out cost, an advertiser needs to spend time asking questions like the ones below and trying to put a dollar amount to them.
  • What does it cost to learn about the technology?
  • What does it cost to generate codes in house or outside?
  • What does it cost to manage and track codes in house or outside?
  • What does it cost to analyze codes in house or outside?
  • What does it cost to create a 2D-based advertisement, packaging, etc.?
  • What does it cost to be first/last to market (i.e., use a code) from a competitive standpoint?
  • What does it cost to properly execute and maintain a 2D program for the short and long-term?
Additionally, the idea of worth can also come in the form of asking questions such as, does our target market know about codes and do they scan them, could codes make for a better overall brand/user experience, do codes align with our overall integrated communications strategy, etc. Although these questions relate more to the marketing aspect of code worth versus the pure financial aspect of code worth, they still need to be asked and addressed.

Second, let me speak to hype. Certainly there is some hype about 2D codes in advertising and creative circles, but I do not believe the hype is that much more than any other new technology or application on the market today. The trick for advertisers is to be able to separate fact from fiction and to know what it means to have realistic expectations with respect to the capabilities of the technology and what campaign response rates can or should be. When speaking with a provider or vendor in the space, advertisers should request referrals and/or case studies to help in this process. It's my suspicion that some providers and vendors are out promoting and selling a bill of goods to those advertisers that are less than knowledgeable or aware.

From one company to the next, from one industry to the next, from one advertising campaign to the next, there are simply too many variables to say with absolute certainty that codes are worth the investment for each and every advertiser out there. And, to rely on any kind of industry benchmarks with respect to response rates, scan rates, etc. is difficult, because the technology is still so relatively new in the U.S. market and many advertisers are not sharing campaign data/metrics. So then, where does this leave us? In my opinion, I believe an advertiser will simply need to try 2D barcodes for themselves, in an earnest manner, in order to determine their true worth.


  1. Let' talk drug and medical device recalls..yup they are worth it!