Global City Lab Releases “2020 Global Top 500 Cities”

New York, Tokyo, and London claim top three.
The United States and China lead with 65 and 39 cities, respectively.

What effect has the global COVID-19 pandemic had on the brand value of the world’s greatest cities? To discover this, an analytical report of the Global Top 500 Cities was compiled by Global City Lab and released on December 28, 2020 in New York. The report declares New York to be the world’s most valuable city, with a brand value of US$2.03 trillion, and states that Tokyo has surpassed London to rank second with a brand value of US$1.88 trillion. London’s brand value has dropped 8.16% this year, ranking third with a brand value of US$1.85 trillion. Moreover, Paris and Sydney also have brand values surpassing US$1 trillion. Hong Kong is still the only Chinese city in the top ten, dropping one place to the tenth position with a brand value of US$0.77 trillion.

A city’s brand represents the comprehensive strength of the city. It also affects the potential for future development of the city because it determines the flow of capital, information, goods, and talent to the city. Therefore, an evaluation of a city’s brand value will provide a clearer judgment and understanding of the city. Global City Lab is the world’s first professional organization engaged in city brand value evaluation. It calculates the brand value of major cities in various countries using the six dimensions of economic growth, culture, governance, environment, talent, and reputation. Global City Lab publishes its “Global Top 500 Cities” analytical report annually.

The threshold for the 2020 Global Top 500 Cities list is 18.51 billion dollars, which is a slight decline compared to 19.22 billion dollars in 2019. Among them, there are five cities in total with a brand value of over 1 trillion dollars, which is one fewer than the number in 2019. There are 19 cities whose brand values range between 500 billion and 1 trillion dollars and 161 cities whose brand values range between 100 and 500 billion dollars. More than 60% of the cities have brand values below 100 billion dollars. Overall, the average brand value of the top 500 cities in 2020 is US$141.22 billion, which is a decrease of 2.35% from the 2019 average of US$144.62 billion.

From a regional perspective, the 500 cities on the list are distributed across six continents, among which Europe, Asia, and North America account for more than 80%. Europe ranks first with 177 cities, the same as last year. Asia has four more cities this year, which raises its total to 155 cities. North America ranks third, with 93 cities on the list. Due to its small number of countries, Oceania only has 18 cities on the list, ranking last among all continents. COVID-19 has swept across the world this year. However, the control measures that have been undertaken by different regions are different. Overall, cities in North America and Europe have not yet recovered from the impact of the pandemic. From the perspective of brand value, the average brand value of European and North American cities fell by 3.95% and 1.94%respectively, especially European ,which is much higher than that of other continents and the global average of 2.35%.

City brands are also a symbol of national strength. The global top 500 cities are distributed across125 countries, one more than last year. Among them, the United States ranks first with 65 cities, and China ranks second with 39 cities. The two countries accounted for 20% of the cities on the list. Japan ranks third with 27 cities. The United Kingdom, India, and Germany tied for fourth place this year, with 24 listed cities. Among the top ten countries, there are five European countries. Due to the impact of the pandemic, global economic development has almost stagnated or even receded. At the same time, the pandemic has also tested the governance capabilities of city governments. The city is no longer a separate economy but a body of interest closely linked to the development and management of the surrounding areas and the world.

The global COVID-19 crisis has continued for nearly a full year, but many city managers still seem to be unable to find the best response methods and measures. The pandemic has had a profound impact on city branding. It is foreseeable that with the tremendous changes in study, work, and lifestyle, as well as the emergence of new technologies and new services in the crisis, after the pandemic gradually eases, cities themselves will also face new changes. Cities are shaped by the people who live in them. When people start to stay away from congested cities and social interactions and get used to telecommuting or working from home, the structure of the city is sure to change drastically. More than that, changes will also occur in all aspects of urban economy, culture, and society, including real estate, investment, education, and communities.

According to Global City Lab, “From the perspective of brand strategy, the results of competition between cities include: 1) Only cities with high brand value can bring benefits to all kinds of stakeholders; 2) The brand value of a city is positively correlated with its economic performance; 3) In the process of city competition, brands have a leverage effect; 4) The economic strength of cities with high brand value is surpassing that of even some large countries. For example, New York’s GDP (1.8t) exceeds Canada’s (1.74t), Tokyo’s (1.6t) exceeds Australia’s (1.4t), and Los Angeles’ (1t) exceeds the Netherlands’ (0.9t). Even Dalian, a second-tier city in China, generated a GDP of US$107.7 billion, more than that of Slovakia, a member of the European Union ($105.4 billion).

A striking feature of globalization is the constant concentration of capital and knowledge in brand-cohesive cities. Although the land of cities cannot be moved, the talent, capital, and enterprises that make up the vitality of cities change every day, which makes the competition among cities on a global scale increasingly fierce. City leaders have recognized the importance of building a competitive international brand for a city. Global City Lab is a specialized research, consulting and evaluation agency based in New York. As a new city think tank, the mission of Global City Lab is to provide comprehensive, expert networking services, especially industry-wide and cross-sector assistance, covering topics from urban planning, housing, environment, finance and branding to public policy, cities, enterprises, and non-profit organizations around the world.