bWEST Interactive - Social Media & Web Development


Analog Meets Digital: Microsoft’s MS Tag

Chris Burdge - May 23rd, 2011

bWEST-Ad-Douglas.jpgMicrosoft Tags are a kind of bar code that connects the analog (magazines, brochures, etc) to the digital (info, videos, etc) on your smart phone. Microsoft introduced Tags in January of 2009 and since then more than 2 billion have been printed.

Tags are free to create and use. You can add them to your magazine ads, business cards, posters, product packaging, billboards, clothing…anything analog really.

To scan a Tag you need to download the free Tag Reader application onto your mobile phone. When you scan a tag it will automatically display a message, open a webpage, add a contact to your address book, or dial a number.

Tags are free and easy to create. You can create Tags in black and white or colours that represent your business or brand.

Here are a few benefits to using Tags:

  • Direct Response: Use Tags as a direct response marketing tool for print campaigns. Check out this Tag in a BMW ad in YAM Magazine linking to a related video.
  • Manage customer experience: Use Tags to link to a website or on a business card to instantly add someone to your address book; dial a phone number; or display a message.
  • Analytics: Measure campaign effectiveness with Tag reporting. You can track the number of scans of a Tag over time and by geographic location.
  • Maintain brand identity: It’s easy to customize the look of a Tag to reflect your brand identity.

Check out the May issue of Douglas Magazine (page 54) to see how bWEST Interactive uses a MS Tag in our ad. We used it to highlight our clients and our testimonials by linking it to a video testimonial from the clients listed in the ad.

So, how is a MS Tag different from a QR code?

  1. Tag allows a much smaller size than QR codes—when you’re designing brochures or ads this can make a big difference.  Also, the size of Tags is the same regardless of the length of your URL or message.
  2. With a traditional code, you’re locked into one look, unable to add much ‘flavor’ or branding.  Tags can be customized to enable integration of your brand’s personality into the Tag.
  3. QR codes carry carry a wide and potentially confusing range of code scanners, which don’t necessarily all work consistently with the mobile phone operating systems.  Tag gives you a single reliable solution for mobile tagging across Windows Mobile, J2ME, iPhone, Blackberry and Symbian S60 phones and Android phones.
  4. The feature I like most: with most 2D barcodes, once you create and use them, accessing analytics like how many times they’ve been scanned can be difficult. MS Tag’s advanced analytics tell you exactly how, when, and where your Tags are being used, and let you change the content behind them with the click of a button—giving you complete insights and control.

Here’s an example of a QR Code in use on my new Meet Meme cards, which are pretty cool. 


Chris Burdge is the founder of bWEST Interactive. His passion & profession is helping clients leverage social media to create genuine and lasting relationships with their target audience and customers.

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