Saffron’s City Brand Barometer

Which cities have built the strongest business brands and who is poised for growth?

Saffron Brand Consultants was founded by Wally Olins in 2001. He died in 2014, but long before Saffron’s founding, he opened and headed up the Ogilvy & Mather office in Mumbai. God rest his creative soul. Today, Saffron chugs along without Wally. But, apart from their stellar brand consulting — every year, they publish the City Brand Barometer Report. This year, the report website in general, is an absolute masterpiece to look upon. The design is breathtaking.

Directly from the moneyshot of the report:

These cities scored the highest in our final ranking. These are the cities with the strongest business brands, earning the best score overall when both their assets and buzz were taken into account.

What might be regarded as ‘the usual suspects’ find themselves at the top of our ranking. Strong asset scores thanks to high ratings on GDP per Capita PPP, ease of doing business and, to some extent, quality of life are the table stakes among these top scoring cities. Building on high asset scores is the equally important work of establishing a positive perception amongst business audiences worldwide – which all of these cities enjoy.

Right out of the gates, NYC is gleaming atop the rest as the clearest winner. To be expected. As Frank Sinatra once said, “If I can make it there, I’m gonna make it anywhere.” But, that’s not why we’re here. We’re here because of who isn’t the winner.

In the Top 10 category, we see some classic favorites (LA and HK, looking at you). I was surprised to see Boston and D.C. make the list:

But what really makes this report wonderful and fun, is the soothsaying weight it carries. The tea leaves at the bottom of the cup, if you will. They’re still warm here, and I prefer to twirl the dregs and make sense of these.

Behold, the runner-ups:

I was pleasantly surprised to see Frankfurt (most of all), Vienna, and even Copenhagen made the runner-up list. Not really shocked at Berlin, Madrid, and San Francisco as front-runners. But, I do want to drill into Frankfurt for a moment. Who clocked it at the #4 position.

Frankfurt really caught my eye. Mainly because economically, it appears that the cost of living hasn’t inflated there yet. On craigslist (at the time of writing), the mean rental pricetag is roughly $600–$900 USD. Which, is incredible. Compare that to San Francisco’s horrendous average rental pricetag at $2000–$4000 on craigslist. Oof. I mean, New York City is much better but still.

My hypothesis is, Frankfurt may be a diamond in the rough. It’s often characterized as a financial hub for Germany (it is often referred to as Bankfurt), which it could outpace and transform into a startup hub. There’s already some exciting startups on the ground in Frankfurt. The city’s history makes it an exciting place to explore, but the growth potential could make it an exciting place to live and grow.

Something to ponder.

The rest of Saffron’s City Brand Barometer report is absolutely captivating. Dividing and analyzing multiple facets of any dataset can be exhausting, but Saffron made short work of it. Checkout the rest of their report here.

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