Those cities were followed in descending order by Tokyo, Melbourne, Shanghai, Seoul, Osaka, Bangkok, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh, Mumbai, Delhi, Jakarta and Manila.
A total of 300 respondents in the communications and marketing field rated the cities on a scale of zero to 10 based on brand image, taking into account factors such as attractiveness in terms of foreign direct investment and tourism.
The study highlights a clear divide in brand image between cities in developed and less developed markets. While the top 11 cities down to Kuala Lumpur scored relatively well, the likes of Manila, Jakarta and Delhi have significant ground to make up.
Simon Webb, SVP of Ogilvy Public Relations Beijing, who was closely involved in the survey, said that the leading cities delivered well on factors such as political stability, business environment and overall cultural appeal. In addition, he said, they had devoted considerable effort and energy to communicating their brand proposition over a long period of time.
The path to a stronger brand image for less esteemed cities is not clear-cut, however. Webb noted that in some cases, “on-ground improvement” was needed with regard to infrastructure and issues such as crime. But he stressed the importance of marketing those improvements once effected. Respondents saw word-of-mouth as the most important channel for brand positioning, followed in order by PR, social media and advertising.
“The brand promise has to marry with the experience but if you don’t spend time communicating that improvement, that will be a problem too,” he said, noting that rising from a negative perception took a long time. The report advocates a 'portfolio approach' with regard to media in which cities use a combination of channels to build their brand and then "insert themselves" into word-of-mouth discussions.
Webb also criticised the tendency of cities in the region to appeal to the “lowest common denominator”, with brand campaigns typically trying to do “many things at the same time”. Trying to compete across the board is often counterproductive, the study suggests. “There is incredible diversity out there, but in terms of the way [cities] market themselves, there is nowhere near as much variety," Webb said. "You would assume there is a lot more homogeneity than you actually find.”