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A loveable rogue by any name: Rogue Society rebrands to to Scapegrace

Rogue Society Gin was launched in 2014 by Kiwi trio Mark Neal, Richard Bourke and Daniel McLaughlin. The brand quickly gained traction, becoming New Zealand’s top-selling premium gin and scooping up international awards in the process. 

Fast forward to 2018 and the brand is experiencing international success. Its core range is stocked in Australia’s largest retailer, 7-Eleven, it’s the fifth highest selling imported gin in the UK after just 12 months, and it has just signed a national distribution deal in the US with the largest American distilling company, launching in 10 states then rolling out over time to the remaining 40. 

But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing to this point. When the team set their sights on the European market, trademark laws involving a similarly named US brewery product forced them to make a decision between changing their name or staying local. “When that happened we thought ‘right we’ve got two options,’” said Rogue Society co-founder Mark Neal, “we trade under two brands to the whole world or one brand to half the world.”

So, after the American brewing company refused to change the name of their ‘Rogue’ beer, Neal said they made “the bold call” and took their gin to the EU under another name – Scapegrace Dry Gin – giving overseas customers a chance to enjoy the “same drop” in the same classic bottle, without the legalities or confusion. 

While the original name and black tinted bottle was a salute to gin’s mysterious history, the new name Scapegrace still upholds the mischievous character as an 18th-century synonym for ‘rogue’.

According to Neal, the name took over six months and thousands of ideas to find.

“We wanted something that was better than Rogue,” he said, “Scapegrace felt really good, it was close to the DNA of the brand and its values”.

The renamed bottle hit the UK market early last year. Now, Rogue Society are on the way to trading under one brand to the whole world after the move to fully transition to the new name.

The change is marked by a new advertising campaign shot by creative agency Motion Sickness. 

With Rogue Society’s loyal customer base, Neal said the team wanted to be “100 percent up front” and fully disclose the reason for the rebrand.

Motion Sickness founder and creative director Sam Stuchbury saw this as an exciting opportunity take a transparent approach to marketing.

“A lot of consumers have been with them since the beginning,” said Stuchbury. “So we wanted to be honest, tell them the truth and it was a really interesting story, so why not make the most of it.”

Narrated by David Dallas, the video takes you around a set of small vignettes that tell the story of Rogue Society’s dealings with the EU and their consequential renaming.

The video moves from world maps to blackboards full of brainstorms as Dallas narrates the company’s battle with higher powers, whilst being reassured that the gin and “even the bloody bottle” are staying the same. 

As for how it’s been received, Neal said the response over social media has been “absolutely fantastic”, a relief for the co-founder, who joked that the process felt similar to renaming a child. Stuchbury attributing the success so far to New Zealanders’ appreciation of up-front honesty.

“I think there’s something to be said about laying everything on the table,” he said.

With the Facebook video already gathering momentum since being posted Wednesday, Rogue Society plan to keep pushing the campaign to the public and using social-media targeted advertising for the next two to three weeks to get word out about the name change.

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