Which Cities Have the Strongest Global Brand

Which Cities Have the Strongest Global Brand?

London and New York Rank High, But Have Surprising Competition

A recent survey revealed the cities with the strongest global brands, as well as identifying some rising stars, not to mention a few underachievers.


A city is more than just a spot on the map. We’ve all seen the familiar signwriting on Del Boy’s Reliant Regal van – London, New York, Peckham – it raises a smile, but it also tells a story about cities and their brand images. In the aspirational yuppie days of the 80s, just being associated with the cities with the biggest brand image was seen as reflecting its glory on the company.

That is as true in today’s age of social media and digital marketing as it was in the decade of the Filofax and the swatch. The question, however, is whether those same cities inspire the same awe and respect today as they did then? The popular media has spent years branding London, Paris, Tokyo, New York and Sydney as the strongest cities in the world from a business perspective. But do the facts stack up against the hype?

A study commissioned by The Guardian provided some interesting answers. The research mapped key cities against two parameters, Asset Strength and Buzz Strength. The former measured its prosperity, attractions, infrastructure, climate and safety. The buzz factor examined mentions on conventional and social media. Each were graded out of ten, and the results multiplied to give an overall score out of 100.

Few surprises in the top four

London Paris and New York all featured in the top four. They each scored 10/10 on buzz, while New York scored 7.8 on assets compared with 7.1 for London and Paris. However, they were all surpassed by Los Angeles – the City of Angels matched their 10/10 for buzz and scored 8/10 for assets. Multiplying the ratings gave these four cities scores in excess of 70. These were the only four cities to score 10/10 on buzz strength.

The also-rans

Five cities managed 9/10 for buzz, but had asset ratings below 7 – these were Las Vegas, Istanbul, Dubai, Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona. Meanwhile, San Francisco and Seoul ranked above 7 on assets but had a buzz rating of 8/10. These seven cities were categorised as the main challengers to the front runners, as they all had a total score in excess of 50.

Less Buzz in the Far East

There were some cities that out-performed all of these in terms of asset strength. Singapore, Shanghai and Tokyo were the only three cities to rate above 8/10 here. However, in terms of buzz, Shanghai rated just 1/10, Tokyo 2/10 and Singapore 5/10.

That runs counter to everything we might think. Shanghai, for example, is a vibrant, bustling city with lots going on. Are the statistics skewed by the fact that Far Eastern countries prefer to use their own social media platforms instead of Twitter and Facebook? It is possible, but keep in mind that South Korea is even more of a closed shop from a social media perspective, but Seoul still managed a creditable 8/10 buzz rating.

Ones to watch

Some stand-out cities worth watching included Mexico City, Bangkok and Mumbai. All three had a total score of around 45, and Mumbai’s buzz rating of 8/10 was particularly noteworthy. The city would have been propelled into the “best of the rests” were it not for its infrastructure still being significantly below the main cities of the world – proof, if it were needed, that for success, a city needs to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

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