As part of a large research project to understand where leading edge cities are found in the U.S., we started with the more modest goal of finding buzz (sought after, wanted) cities.
We find that tourist destinations have the highest buzz factor, topped by Daytona Beach. Hipster cities also score high, like Portland, Oregon, Austin, Texas, and Madison, Wisconsin. At the bottom is Worcester, Massachusetts.
We took the 104 cities with more than 500,000 inhabitants in the metropolitan statistical area (MSA) and quantified the Google search volume. Anomalies such as New York City versus New York State were adjusted, as were news events such as the terrorist attack in San Bernadino that led to a one-month spike. We also added search volumes for secondary cities within the MSA such as Cambridge and Quincy in Boston MSA.
With this clean set of Google searches, we regressed them against city GDP. Cities with more Google searches than indicated by GDP are considered hi-buzz, while cities with few searches relative to GDP are considered lo-buzz.
The map below shows the results visually. Red = hi-buzz; Blue = lo-buzz.
The graph below shows the detailed results for the 104 cities. The score ranges from around +10 to -10. It is an index with no meaning except that the higher the score, the more buzz around the city (the score can be interpreted, but this takes too much effort to explain).
We were surprised by the top city, Daytona Beach. We checked whether the rank was unduly influenced by the Daytona 500, but found no evidence of this since searches are fairly evenly spread throughout the year. Spring break contributes, but is seasonal.
There are many surprises in the list, such as Los Angeles’ low score (even though we include Anaheim and Long Beach). Chattanooga’s and Buffalo’s high scores are puzzling, but finding the non-obvious is the point of the analysis.
Cities at the bottom of the list have to do some soul-searching. What is it about my city that makes it so unexciting (since size-effect has been eliminated)?
How can the ranking be used by our clients? The cities at the top of the list should be considered for test marketing and product introductions. Of course, the categories considered will further narrow the list: testing sunscreen lotion in Portland probably makes no sense even though it is second on the list. But in general, cities with a positive score have some sort of buzz that should be leveraged.