• Transform magazine
  • January 26, 2022

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Singapore, NYC and London rank highest in City Business Brand barometer

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Singapore, New York City and London rank highest in the Saffron City Brand Barometer 2021, which explores which cities have built the strongest brands to attract business and investors worldwide.

Brand consultancy, Saffron Brand Consultants, selects 80 key cities from around the world based on their GDP per capita size, and the prominence they have in their region to ensure a representative geographical spread. 

To define the final score, Saffron then weights the strength of each city based on two criteria: the asset score, including factors that are related to business decision-makers, like GDP per capita, Covid-19 resilience, and health care accessibility; and the buzz score, based on audience perception of cities. Singapore, New York City and London have scored the highest in the top ten ranking, in terms of both asset and buzz, resulting in the strongest business brands.

"The recently launched 5th edition of Saffron's City Brand Barometer highlights which cities are effectively using their brand to attract business and investment. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, we studied the approaches taken to accommodate foreign investors, expat workers and investors in a very difficult global context," says Ben Knapp, chief growth officer at Saffron Brand Consultants.

The ranking also includes the ‘challenger; brands, the top 11-20 which are set to challenge the top ten in the future. These city brands tend to be smaller by GDP per capita (PPP based) but typically enjoy a higher quality of life and almost the same ‘ease of doing business’ as the cities in the top ten. They include cities like San Francisco and Madrid, which are both specialised in start-ups, IT and creative industries. 

San Francisco, also deemed the tech capital of the West, has the right balance of buzz and assets, which shows that perception does match reality. However, extremely high living expenses, rent prices and taxes don’t work in favour of the tech hub, pushing people to work remotely from other, less expensive cities. 

The last category of city brands analysed in the barometer are the 'underperformers' or the cities that are not realising their potential. They are in the top 20 for assets but have an average or low perception score and therefore may need to improve their credibility as a place to do business. 

This category includes cities like Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen which, despite offering a good quality of life, need to improve how they leverage their brand. Copenhagen, for example, was second only to Singapore in its overall asset rating yet had one of the lowest buzz scores in the top 50. Whilst Copenhagen has improved its score since the 2019 City Brand Barometer, the city still performed poorly in the survey analysis relative to the competition. The report suggests that to grow as a leading European hub for business, Copenhagen should be clearer in communicating its wide-ranging benefits, such as its high digital adoption and ambitious sustainability objectives.