Sotheby’s International Realty


Modernizing an iconic realty brand


With a new era of homebuyers entering the luxury real estate market, Sotheby’s International Realty realized that the brand’s legacy would not hold as much weight with the new generation of affluent buyers as it had with their traditional clientele. To attract new clients and new agents, it would have to find a unique balance between its rich heritage and a way to express its relevance to younger audiences.


Using our proprietary Structural Mapping Process,® existing consumer research and in-depth interviews with franchisees from across the world, we discovered that there was a conceptual space that spoke to both older and younger generations alike, while connecting deeply to the heritage of Sotheby’s: The desire to experience the exceptional, and in doing so live an exceptional life, beyond even the most valuable possessions. The resulting organizing idea became “Exceptional Defined”, meaning that Sotheby’s International Realty was both arbiter and gateway to exceptional lifestyles.

Guided by this organizing idea, we set out to create a global campaign that positioned Sotheby’s International Realty as the epitome of the exceptional. This campaign came to be called “Only Sotheby’s International Realty” – or the “Only Campaign” for short.


The organizing idea and brand campaign were unveiled at the Sotheby’s International Realty global conference in May 2019 to an audience of 2,000 agents and affiliates. On the same day that the campaign went live in major publications around the world, including the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Barron’s, Town & Country and many more. Industry media attention and affiliate/agent uptake since the launch have been unprecedented, making this the most successful campaign in Sotheby’s history.

Moral of the story

Finding the common thread between old and emerging audiences isn’t as hard as you’d think – so long as you know, and build from, the brand DNA.