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.
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.