Friday, July 15, 2011

QR code is to 2D barcode as Kleenex is to tissue?

As products begin to penetrate the marketplace, there comes a point with some products that a specific name dominates. For example, Kleenex tissue. Kleenex is a specific type of tissue, but when you need to blow your nose you typically ask for a Kleenex and not a tissue.

Sometimes it depends on the location you are in as to what name takes over. When traveling in the southern part of the United States and ordering a soda, you may ask for a coke. Many times the waiter/waitress will ask “What kind?” While in northern parts of the country you will receive a Coca-Cola. Coke in the south is equivalent to soda and not a specific brand.

This is starting to happen in the 2D barcode marketplace. There are many different types of 2D barcodes. Some barcodes are proprietary and are specific to products from that company and only work with the company’s barcode reader.

Take a look at the barcodes below*:

These barcodes have one thing in common, and that is they are 2D barcodes. But many would call them QR codes.

Recently, there has been a transition to calling all 2D barcodes QR codes. One prominent example of this is the recent news article about a man getting a “QR code” tattooed on his chest.

In an article on, the tattoo artist, Karl, said the tattoo was not a QR code but an EZ code which would hold up better through the years as the tattoo fades.

When the news article broke almost every online tech site had a story about the tattoo and called it a QR code. Was this the final push needed to make QR codes the generic name for all 2D barcodes? I believe it was.

A lot of time has been spent educating people what 2D barcodes are. As marketers continue to grow their use of 2D barcodes in advertising, I believe the term QR codes will be used more than 2D barcodes. I say this primarily because 1D barcodes are known as barcodes. Introducing a new type of barcode with a different purpose and essentially naming it barcodes 2.0 was not going to with stand the tests of time.

Two-D barcodes look very similar, with the exception of some proprietary codes such as Microsoft Tag. Since there isn’t a differentiating look to them they will merge into the one name. While fundamentally they are 2D barcodes, pretty soon everyone will know 2D barcodes as QR codes.


*These barcodes were chosen at random through a Google search.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tipping Point: Mobile Barcodes

With any new product or service there is a tipping point. A tipping point when it takes off. Before the tipping point, many people will say the product or service will not take off. They say it will die off. Some will even ask what the point of supporting the product since it’s not going to take off.

Depending on location, different products will tip and others won’t. Let’s take Groupon for example. Groupon each day features a coupon for a discounted service or product. Each day the coupon has a tipping point. Groupon calls this tipping point “on.” Sometimes the deal tips quickly and other times it does not.

Once the deal tips, it takes off. In 2010, on average there were 543 sales per groupon daily. When the deal tips, many more people rush and buy. However, there are times when a product is dependent on another product tipping before it tips. Two dimensional barcodes are an example.

For 2D barcodes to tip, they are dependent on smartphones tipping first.

2D barcodes originated in Japan in 1993. Japan had a greater number of smartphones the past several years than the United States. Since Japan reached the tipping point of smartphones, 2D barcodes were able to tip quicker there than they have been in the US.
Smartphones are now starting to permeate the mobile phone market in the US. Over the past three months 55% of mobile consumers purchased a smartphone. For the first time, smartphones have overtaken feature phones in sales.

With smartphones now being sold more than feature phones, I believe we have reached the tipping point of smartphones and soon will see 2D barcodes take off.

The tipping point of a product coincides with the product life cycle.

When the product hits the maturity stage, it begins to tip. 2D barcodes are still in their growth but will shortly mature.

Even though Google ended its support for support for QR codes in Google Places in March, Google made a move this week back into 2D barcodes with acquiring Punchd.As Google moves back into the mobile barcode arena will this cause an increase in 2D barcodes? I believe so.

There are even cities becoming coded. Asheville, North Carolina is making a move to get every business a mobile barcode.

My suggestion, don’t wait until everyone is doing it to get on board. Start now so you will be prepared and ahead of the curve. When creating your mobile barcode, make sure you have mobile content to send your user to. Websites are complex enough when looking at them on a computer. Don’t make your consumer view your website on a screen that is less than a quarter the size.