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boost your mobile marketing with 2D barcodes

2D barcodes

by Kenneth Rudich

Do you know what a 2D barcode is?

If you guessed it’s that curious image pictured above, then you’ve answered correctly.

More specifically, a 2D barcode, also known as a Data Matrix Code, is a scan code, similar to the 1D scan code we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on most product packaging.  The difference is that the 2D barcode has a larger data storage capacity than its 1D counterpart.

2D barcode marketing

What makes 2D interesting from a marketing standpoint is that people scan it by snapping a picture of it with their mobile phone (the phone requires an app for that).  So, for instance, if you put the 2D barcode on other marketing materials, be it print or digital, people can snap a picture of it with their phone.

The phone app then decodes the information and proceeds to do whatever the data instructs it to do.  It can link the customer to your web page, a product demo, a social media page, or insert your business information straight into their address book.  Some businesses link directly to mobile ecommerce sites.  Whichever you want, it will do.

Think of it as functioning like a hyperlink on a website.  Only it has a distinct advantage.  When you combine the portability of the mobile phone with how easy it is to use a 2D barcode, it becomes incredibly convenient, especially for people who are “on the go” or starved for time.  It gives them instant access to more product information that can potentially close a sale.

endless marketing possibilities

All sorts of businesses already use 2D bar codes.

Sports Illustrated used it on the cover of the Swimsuit Edition to feedback videos and pictures of swimsuit models.  They reportedly got 100,000 mobile code engagements. 

The Gap uses 2D barcodes in the store to help people decide which clothing is the right fit for their body type.

Best Buy provides product codes that link customers to product details and user reviews. 

Heineken placed 2D barcodes on their packaging in the United States during the summer season.  Consumers participated in a sweepstakes by scanning the codes.  Those who did so could win a free application, music downloads, t-shirts or Fender Guitars.

All in all, the possible uses for marketing with 2D barcodes are virtually endless.

small business marketing

If you’re thinking this isn’t relevant to you because you’re just a small business, look at it this way: these big guys are cultivating your customers to get into the habit of using 2D barcodes.  David Javitch, vice president of marketing at mobile advertising firm Scanbuy in New York said, “Consumers told us three years ago that they will scan if the infrastructure and the codes are there, and that is what we are now seeing.”

In fact, a recent survey by Scanbuy found that 2D barcode scanning has increased 700% since the start of 2010.  They also note that over 90% of phones today come with a camera, making almost any mobile device a personal barcode scanner.

Think of all the places you can locate a 2D barcode for your customers and prospects. 

Storefronts, traditional media like newspaper ads and direct mail, television commercials and websites, are all good candidates for engaging customers and helping them to make the purchase decision easier.  Some people even put it on their business cards for the novelty effect.

how to acquire 2D barcodes

It’s worth noting there are many types of 2D barcodes and some are proprietary, but the QR barcode (Quick Response) isn’t.  It was developed in the 1990’s by a Japanese car manufacturer, and it is the most well-known and widely used type as of this writing.  

You can create a QR barcode with special barcode generation software.  Many websites, such as, offer free access to the software.  Just type your website address, business address or anything else you would like into the generator and it will furnish a code.  Download the image and use it in whatever way you like.

By the way, if you scan the QR code above, it’ll take you to the Marketing Strategy Management blog.  Give it a try!

2D barcode tips

When employing 2D barcodes, it’s exceedingly important to give the consumer a good user experience.  Here some tips for using it:

  • Use black and white versions of the code instead of colors.  This will help ensure readability.
  • Use the code to link to something of genuine value, like a coupon, more product information or product reviews.
  • Provide information about what consumers will receive next to the 2D barcode, so they can decide if it’s worth their while to snap a picture of it.
  • Given that this is a relatively new marketing practice, be prepared to educate consumers about 2D barcodes and how to use them.
  • Test that the barcode is functioning properly on different devices, and that the content it triggers is mobile optimized.
  • Use global, open standards — not proprietary technologies and codes – to maximize reach and scope.
  • Create a “tag-rich” environment.  If a mobile user sees multiple 2D barcodes, it improves the chances of them getting used.
  • Create a mix of experiences – mobile websites, video, slideshows, contests, coupons, etc. 


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