Top global cities ranked by how well perceived they are as “brands.”
A city is just like any other product: a brand. Global Market Insite, together with leading brands expert Simon Anholt, has developed its first annual Anholt-GMI City Brands Index survey that ranks cities around the world by how well they are perceived as brands. GMI asked 17,502 men and women, ages 18 to 64, to answer questions on 30 different cities relating to the following six components: presence (familiarity, recent contributions to the world); place (beauty and climate perceptions); potential (economic, professional and educational opportunities); pulse (amount of exciting things to do); prerequisites (general amenity standards, ease of finding accommodations), and people (residents’ friendliness, safety perceptions). Category scores were compiled, then an overall City Brands Index score was applied to each city.
Overall City Brand Index Score*: 62.56
As Samuel Johnson said, “A man who is tired of London is tired of life.” And the City Brands Index report backs up that opinion. Last year’s terrorist bombings did not detract respondents from ranking it high in terms of job availability, doing business, obtaining a good education and fitting easily into the community. Other respondents felt a connection to London based on the awareness of the royal family and Prime Minister Tony Blair. Simon Anholt, brands expert and co-developer of the report, stated, “London is perceived to be a bad climate and expensive, but that doesn’t affect the rankings because it’s an aspirational, cosmopolitan type of city. The city is full of interesting people, you will make money and have fun — and it will rain the whole time.”
Paris is an ideal example of how landmarks can heighten a city’s brand: Respondents instantly connected the Eiffel Tower to it. “Paris is a megabrand, in every sense of the word,” said Anholt. “Whomever we speak to about this brand, whether it be in South Korea, China or Brazil, people have the same feelings, perceptions and ideas about this place. It’s the same as Coca-Cola as a brand.” Respondents associated words such as “glamour” and “chic” to the city, and people also strongly associated it with fashion and perfume brands, as well. “Chanel and Dior are classic names that continually come up when we mention Paris — the city carries an image of style and sophistication,” said Anholt.
Sydney ranks high for a couple of reasons: the Olympics and the landmarks. “The 2000 Summer Olympics had such a profound impact on the city,” noted Anholt. “I have a strong feeling the Olympics were carefully woven into their national strategy — tourism spending, cultural relations, everything — the Olympics really put this city on the map.” Two other attractions are the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House landmarks. Because of the city’s location, not as many people have visited, and therefore acknowledge its existence by landmarks. Anholt said, “Humans think of things in pictures — if you can attach your sentiments to a postcard picture of the city, then that means the city exists in your mind.”
The report made note of Rome’s attributes, stating that most of the values associated with this city relate to fashion, climate, culture, design, shopping and lifestyle, rather than infrastructure, finance or politics. “Rome is a passionate place, with beautiful buildings, style, fashion and food,” said Anholt. “One of the other reasons it scores so highly is because of the Pope and Vatican City. The Pope is one of the most famous people on earth.” In terms of fashion, designers such as Pucci, Valentino, Armani, Gucci, Versace and others hail from Italy. Most are based out of Milan, however. Milan dominates with the largest selection of boutiques, followed by Rome and Florence.
Located along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona’s buildings, many the work of the eccentric genius Antoni Gaudi, are extraordinary (one example is seen to the left), while the art, with significant collections by Picasso and Miró, is phenomenal. “Barcelona is a lifestyle city, a culture city,” said Anholt. “It’s got a wonderful, youthful reputation, which none of the top four in the rankings really have. High marks really came from the younger end of our age group.” Barcelona also may be attracting the younger population, thanks to a hefty number of undergraduate and graduate schools located here: In addition to several business schools, fashion design schools such as ESDI School of Design and Istituto Europeo di Design Barcelona are here, as well.
Amsterdam also has a faithful younger following, but for different reasons than that of Barcelona. “Amsterdam is sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll,” said Anholt. “Which is ironic, because Holland as a country doesn’t really have any of these virtues; it has a relatively boring image.” WWD FAST reported in October that around the snaking canals of Amsterdam, “there’s this eclectic fusion of cutting-edge design and laid-back elegance in everything from the city’s stores to its eateries to its hotels.” Fashion favorites (and Dutchmen, no less) Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren have been rumored to hit boutiques in the central Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets) shopping district. Some hot spots there include: Lady Day (vintage) and Exota (local designers).
7. New York
Though New York ranks seventh overall, that is relatively high considering the two outdated perceptions weighing its brand image down: that it is unsafe and that people are unfriendly. “There is also an element still there from 9/11 that is depressing the city’s safety ratings,” Anholt added. However, the good outweighs the bad in New York’s case. Aspects such as stellar higher education, an ideal place to do business, an abundant variety of things to do and a fun lifestyle all were ranked high. “Shopping and fashion were also mentioned often by respondents,” Anholt said. “They associate words like Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s with New York. [Words like] fashion and catwalks come up quite often, as well.”
8. Los Angeles
Hollywood and the movie industry were immediately connected with Los Angeles in the minds of respondents. “The global perception of L.A. is that it’s nice, clean and even affordable — even though it’s where all the movie stars live,” said Anholt. “What brings L.A. down slightly is that people ranked it as being less important and exciting as New York.”
“Madrid scores highly because it’s almost a grown-up version of Barcelona,” said Anholt. People responded positively to the relaxed Spanish lifestyle: energetic street life, busy outdoor cafes, the welcoming nature of its residents. “It’s a friendly, warm place, but Madrid has a level of adult sophistication and grown-up culture that other places lack.” Respondents also ranked the city high in terms of culture, museums, art galleries, ancient buildings and sculptures. Museo del Prado houses works by Goya, El Greco and Velazquez, among others. The bombing of Madrid’s rail system has not affected its safety numbers — much like London. “This might indicate that maybe now they believe the city is even safer and more careful,” Anholt said.
The general perception of Berlin as a brand is that overall, it is a modern, safe and affordable city, with educational potential, and that it’s a city that has made significant contributions to the world over the last 30 years, mainly as a result of reunification. Thus, the Berlin Wall was one of the most-recognized landmarks in the City Brands Index report. “Another reason Berlin stands out is because people perceive it as being youthful — the city has lots of clubs and quite a vibrant music scene,” said Anholt. Berlin Fashion Week, which takes place at the end of this month, aims to place the city in the spotlight by organizing fashion shows and serving as an umbrella for the assorted events and parties running parallel to the city’s trade shows.
11. San Francisco
Though just barely missing the top 10, San Francisco received high marks from respondents, whose awareness of what is arguably the world’s most beautiful bridge ranks high. The Golden Gate Bridge connects the city with Marin County and is enjoyed by walkers, bikers and drivers alike. Other attractions include tours of Alcatraz prison and the city’s very own fashion week, which bowed in 2004 and showcased designs of “emerging” stars in the Bay Area.
Canada’s largest city, with a population of 2.5 million, is home to some of the most impressive landmarks in the world. Toronto is home to the St. Lawrence Market, considered one of the top 25 food markets by Food & Wine magazine, and reserves bragging rights for the world’s tallest building: The CN tower stands 1,815.39 feet high, attracts more than two million visitors annually and was recently named one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
Nicknamed “The Beautiful City” and located at the foot of the Alps, Geneva holds a reputation as a city of peace. Natural attractions such as Lake Geneva and beautiful monuments such as the Jet c’eau fountain serve as symbols for the renowned peace and beauty of this idyllic region. Rue du Rhone is one of the most upscale streets of the city, where well-known luxury watch brands such as Patek Philippe, Piaget, Raymond Weil, Rolex and Tag Heuer are located. Geneva also is considered an international business center: The city is home to the headquarters of many humanitarian institutions, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, and hosts hundreds of conferences and exhibitions each year.
Respondents ranked the capital of the U.S. very high in terms of attraction awareness for the White House, and also for the city’s contribution to the political world. Washington also hosts a number of cultural giants, including the National Opera and the John F. Kennedy Center of Performing Arts, monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial and museums such as the incomparable Smithsonian Institution.
The capital of Belgium is well known for being the administrative center of the European Union. However, Brussels also has beautiful architecture, from medieval buildings in Grand Place to the more modern Atomium building located in Exhibition Park, which is a perfect replica of an enlarged molecule. It also hosts the annual Brussels Fashion Fairs, whose theme this year is World Heritage.