Saffron City Brand Barometer 2021
A report revealing which cities have built the strongest business brands
The Saffron City Brand Barometer 2021 is an annual study which explores which cities have built the strongest brands to attract businesses and investors worldwide. Due to the growth of e-commerce in parallel with (and as a result of) the global Covid-19 pandemic, digitalisation has boomed and borderless business has become more possible even for small-medium sized businesses.
The effect is that businesses have, more than ever before, an almost limitless choice of where to operate, increasing the competition amongst cities. The same way that commercial companies would, cities must build, manage and measure their brand when seeking investment or talent in order to attract commerce on a global scale.
We created the Saffron City Brand Barometer to be a tool that could usefully assess what creates a strong business brand for a city. The analysis begins by selecting 80 key cities from different parts of the world. To define the final scores, we weighted the strength of each city based on its Assets – such as GDP per Capita, the Ease of Doing Business, the Mercer Quality of Living Index and more, combined with its perception, or Buzz, amongst global audiences. Find the in-depth methodology in the full report.
The Top 10
The Top Ten cities of the ranking represent the strongest business city brands globally. These cities have scored the highest in terms of Assets and Buzz, resulting in a strong business brand. Key factors for strong asset scores are high ratings on GDP per Capita, ease of starting and doing business and, to some extent, quality of life and the impact of Covid-19. Additionally, these Top Ten cities have created a positive reputation amongst business audiences worldwide.
The Top 11-20 of our final ranking. These are the cities with great business brands that look set to challenge the Top Ten in the near future. The Challengers tend to be smaller by GDP per Capita PPP but typically enjoy a higher quality of life and roughly the same Ease of Doing Business as those amongst the Top Ten. They are, therefore, serious competition to the large and established cities with many businesses deciding that these Challengers represent better value than their larger competitors. The Challengers also feature more cities such as San Francisco and Madrid that have specialised in Startup/IT and creative industries.
These are cities that are not realising their potential. They are in the Top 20 for Assets but have an average or low perception score. This has resulted in a lower ranking than their Assets might suggest they deserve. They may need to improve their credibility as a place to do business and build positive perceptions connected with their Assets. Investigating why perceptions are not in line with their offering could certainly pay high dividends. Scandinavian cities such as Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen may offer a great quality of life but to rise in the rankings and attract more business they need to better leverage their brand.
Ones to Watch
These cities are the ones we believe will be making upward moves in our ranking in the near future. They scored in the Top 20 for Buzz but did not make it into the Top Ten of the overall ranking, indicating that their Assets are not yet as strong as they need to be. With the right investment into improving their asset strength, these cities could become leading business brands in the future. Cities such as Mexico City and Amsterdam have not fared well in the pandemic but are ones we predict should rise in the rankings in the next edition of the Barometer.
CITY CASE STUDIES
The Top 10
Melbourne achieved great Buzz scores, and rose overall since 2019 from position 27 to 9. This was driven specifically by good scores in the qualitative survey and is likely related to the government’s financial support of small-medium-sized businesses to combat the economic impact of bushfires and Covid-19. Independently of the government’s economic support, there is a clear unique offering coming from the quality of life. The coastal city enjoys a clean environment, good city management, rich agriculture, and sustainable practices.Download report to read the full case
The Top 10
Powered by investment leading up to the 2021 Olympics, Tokyo has made it to the Top Ten in our 2021 City Brand Barometer. It has come through the pandemic well, moving up 14 spots from 24th in 2019 to 10th in 2021. The largest metropolis in the world and one of the world’s most liveable cities, Tokyo is poised to compete as a business destination globally in the years to come. With a rich culture, quality of life and the Asian headquarters for global companies such as Apple, Indeed, and Netflix, Tokyo is an important talent hub employing locals and attracting a great number of foreign residents.Download report to read the full case
Despite its renown as one of the most ‘liveable’ cities on the planet, it has been a particularly difficult 12 months for Amsterdam. A high GDP and status as ‘the gateway to Europe’ could not save the Dutch capital from dropping 7 places in our 2021 City Barometer rankings. For a city normally renowned for its efficiency and organisation, it’s subpar resilience to the pandemic unfortunately has dragged Amsterdam down in the rankings.Download report to read the full case
You can’t speak about working in San Francisco without mentioning the tech giants that solidified the city as the Mecca for start-ups. Google, Yahoo, Apple, Tesla, to name a few, all have headquarters in San Francisco; however, these companies may have inadvertently contributed to a dip in the city’s popularity. With some of the most flexible remote working policies, these companies are leading the way in the location-agnostic approach to working that is appearing all over the United States. Cities like San Francisco, with some of the highest living expenses, rent prices, and taxes, are particularly vulnerable to losing a large portion of their residents.Download report to read the full case
Ranking in the Top Ten for Buzz, Madrid is earning a reputation as a top destination for entrepreneurs and ambitious professionals looking to make the most of the city’s work-to live, rather than live-to-work culture. It’s worth noting that Spain’s capital has not always been seen as a booming business capital. However, the working culture and professional landscape of Madrid has transformed over the past decade, becoming a hub for coworking spaces and a leader in start-up growth.Download report to read the full case
A low Buzz score let Copenhagen down, however, it remains the top-performing Scandinavian city in 24th place (narrowly edging out Oslo in 25th and Stockholm in 26th). Only Singapore had a stronger overall asset rating, but the city’s Buzz score was the lowest inside the Top 50, suggesting Copenhagen’s city brand needs to work harder to compete on the world stage and do the place justice.Download report to read the full case
Ranked 34th overall, Seoul is in the Top Ten cities in terms of Assets score but is pulled down by a low Buzz score. As the capital city of South Korea, a country leading in Smart City development according to the World Bank, Seoul has an untapped potential to become a top-of-mind business destination. As China tightens its grip on Hong Kong and tensions rise, global media companies have been looking to Seoul as their Asia headquarters. With the “Korean wave” and rising soft power derived from pop culture such as K-beauty and K-Pop, experts say that South Korea’s “cool” has boosted its business profile.Download report to read the full case
Ones to Watch
According to our 2021 barometer, Mexico City suffered more than any other city from the pandemic in the past year. In spite of its position at the very bottom of global Covid-19 resilience scoring, the city remained at the top of the pile in the Latin American region. The megalopolis ranked highly in GDP per capita and Ease of Doing Business compared with many of its continental rivals, while also enjoying the most Buzz – signaling a potential cause for optimism looking forward.Download report to read the full case