By Adam Grossberg and Dan Brekke

The Guardian — you know, that Brit source of news and information — is out this week with something it calls the “Guardian Cities Global Brand Survey.” It purports to be a meaningful ranking of “the most powerful city brands” worldwide. (Oh, good — we’ve been waiting to see who wins the Brainerd vs. Fargo smackdown that’s been brewing ever since the Coen Brothers came out with their somewhat misleadingly titled movie.)

So, the envelope please.

San Francisco, a little-ish city with a big superiority complex, where the unofficial motto is “Beat L.A.,” ranks No. 8 on the Guardian list.

Los Angeles, the smog-choked noirish sprawl that wants to steal all our water, is ranked — brace yourselves — No. 1.

Yes, not only ahead of Don’t-Call-It-Frisco, but also in front of New York, London, Paris and many other wonderfully attractive and interesting places, from Seoul to Chicago to Nairobi.

From L.A. to Nairobi, the results of The Guardian's first global brand survey. (The Guardian)
From L.A. to Nairobi, the results of The Guardian’s first global brand survey. (The Guardian)

What’s behind the ranking of city brands?

The Guardian asked Saffron, a brand consultancy firm, to compile the list based on a convoluted calculation of “buzz” and “assets.” Assets being things like “attractions, climate, infrastructure (particularly transport), safety and economic prosperity”; and buzz being “a combination of social media (Facebook likes and Twitter sentiment analysis) and media mentions.”

San Francisco may have finished behind L.A., but look at all of the cities it ranked in front of. It puts the No. 25 brand, Berlin, to shame. (Do Germans have a word for shame?)

Here’s what the survey says about San Francisco …:

“The City by the Bay has it all – shopping, jobs, great transport (there’s a particularly nice bridge, we hear) and buzz. If only it didn’t rain quite so much, San Francisco might be able to take on the really big guns.

… And about Los Angeles:

For cultural variety and sheer glitter … LA outshines them all. It has stunning weather that New York and London just can’t compete with, the amazing beaches to show it off, world-class art, movie history, an endless parade of famous attractions, an improving crime rate and a certain well-known sign in the hills. After years of languishing, the City of Angels has top spot in the brand firmament.

The survey’s reliance on social media (and emphasis on Western websites) certainly helped San Francisco and hurt Chinese cities Shanghai and Beijing because social media sites popular in that country (Renren, Weibo) were not used. That might also explain the lack of buzz for Nairobi and Chittagong.

So, take it for what it’s worth. Full list below.

  • OhSay CanuSee

    SF has been losing its “brand” as a place where unexpected creativity and unique art experiences can happen. Now it’s just urine, traffic and ethically-challenged techies taking up the tables drinking $9 lattes.

    I tell my global friends to not bother visiting SF, it isn’t worth it anymore.

    • jeffJ1

      As someone who grew up near NYC, I find all this handwringing about SF really hilarious. NYC has existed for about 30 years in a constant state of what you think is happening to SF right now.

      • OhSay CanuSee

        Yes but NYC has better art and art museums and far more interesting things to do and see then SF. NYC still is a diverse place drawing millions of different people around the world. In general, NYC has real culture, where SF has run out the culture and diversity that makes it great.

        I’m glad you find it hilarious. It’s doubtful you take much serious.

        • mrwritesf

          …and no one visits San Francisco? What a waste building all those hotels. And I suppose all those folks lined up for blocks waiting to board the cable cars at Market and Powell are just locals who couldn’t get a cab?

        • jeffJ1

          Oh, so you think SF is a boring place without culture and diversity? Okay; I guess you better steer clear!

          • Haw Haw

            Oh look at that clever, witty retort from the uniquely SF type residents who are so fun to be around!

  • jeffJ1

    This is kind of weird. Just taking my friends and acquaintances as anecdotal evidence, Los Angeles could not be more of a non-place. Everyone wants to live in NYC or San Francisco. I’m also a little baffled to see Atlanta but not Portland (which I assumed would be king of the “brand.”)

  • Myles Garcia

    Because San Francisco is held hostage by gay leftist/socialist/anarchist, anti-growth, grungy coalition of messengers and the homeless!!

    • mrwritesf

      Yeaaaaaaah…and everyone in L.A. Is a right-wing staunch socially Conservative church-going, white-bread-and-mayonnaise-eater.

      • Myles Garcia

        Precisely. That’s why LA moves forward in strides and SF thinks it’s the be-all when it’s just a ‘legend in its own mind.’

        • Ken Stamper

          Totally! Our economy is falling apart, rent is falling because no one wants to live here and there are no jobs, and our air is filthy. Oh wait, that’s the opposite of what’s happening.

        • David Thaler

          SF thinks it’s a legend in its own mind? SF? And there’s ZERO pretense in L.A.?

          • kejth

            No one says there’s no pretense in LA. You’ll find pretense in almost any metropolis. It’s just that there’s an inordinate amount of it in the Bay Area. SF, the so-called “Paris of the West”, is probably the only place in the US where residents have a pathological, compulsive need to talk about how great their city is.

  • maisie may

    SF ties with Las Vegas? You’ve got to be kidding! Rains too much? Where did they get that statistic? I would put a lot of other cities above bland, no character, dirty, sprawling suburbia-ish LA. But that’s just me. And then again, I am a born and bred Northern Californian!

  • mrwritesf

    OK, SAFE? I guess we shouldn’t talk about Watts, Rodney King, carjackings, car chases, and wildfires. BTW, more rain would help mitigate the latter, but I,guess water in L.A. Is merely for swimming pools.

    Access to transportation? Y’mean that subway no one uses?

    So obviously written by a buncha starf*ckers…..

  • Ken Stamper

    It rains a lot in San Fancisco? I’ve lived here for over three years and that’s news to me.

  • Rafa

    Bay Area people are so blind in their senseless hate for southern California, LA in particular. While the motto in SF is “Beat LA”, do you know the motto in LA about SF…nothing… They are too busy enjoying SF when they visit to care about nonsense.

    To still refer to LA as an endless see if smog is comical as things have improved so much in the past 3 decades and will only continue to get better.

    I’m not even from LA. I’m from OC and am not particularly fond of LA as a whole, but I know where to find what I like when I want. I live in the Bay and can only day the city was better ten years ago. SF is currently choking on its own smug. Unlike smog, clearing out the smug in SF may prove to be much more difficult.

    • Yu May Hate Mi

      Thank you, Rafa! I’m a Northern Cali native, SF State grad, and former inhabitant of many other regions in the Bay Area. I recently moved to LA and love it. SF can hate all they want, but it only proves ignorance, as so many criticisms Bay Area people level against LA are grossly outdated misconceptions. To my shock and delight, I have discovered the amazing pleasure of appreciating two areas at once. My love of LA does not have to take away from my appreciation for SF (minus the narrow-minded populace that visited LA once in the last 5 years and will warn me not to live there).

  • Que Lastima

    Forget SF and LA, even though SF punches way above it’s collective weight, who really thinks Mecca and Dubai truly rank above Milan, Rome, Berlin, Lisbon, and New Delhi, when measured by weather, and things to do? Hilarious.

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