Jonathan Trimble And Rising In A Tree

Building Brands The And Rising Way: Lessons From A Creative Ventures Company

How And Rising is growing brands from the ground up

By Claire Beale

There are entrepreneurs with a dream. And then there are successful brands. And there’s rarely an easy path to follow to get from one to the other.

The rough statistics – and harsh truth – is that about 20 per cent of new businesses fail in their first year. Nearly half fail within five years. Two thirds fail within ten years. And only a quarter of all businesses make it beyond 15 years.

The odds are so clearly stacked against success that it’s no wonder optimism has been identified as a defining characteristic of many entrepreneurs. But having the right partner on that journey can also make all the difference, putting some heft behind that optimism. Which is where a creative ventures company like And Rising comes in.

And Rising helps start-up businesses develop the clear strategy, strong branding, and gritty marketing that builds a healthy customer base and a chunky balance sheet valuation

The company works with fledgling brands on a sliding scale of fee-only/zero equity, through to 60% of the work that they do being equity based. This combination of bootstrapping, angel funding and specialist expertise is designed to reduce burn and be ‘equity efficient’, leaving more in the hands of the founders. It’s a services-for-equity model that gives brands a skin-in-the-game marketing partner.

The brands And Rising works with vary from that entrepreneur’s dream sketched out on a piece of paper through to products that already have a foothold in a market. All are looking for innovation and ignition to kick them on to the next level. And since And Rising is a B Corp, the company focuses on brands that champion positive change —conscious direct-to-consumer products and services, brands and tech that are a rewarding part of the aspirational consumer economy.

And Rising was launched in 2019 by Jonathan Trimble, Rob Ward and Adrienne Little, founders of the independent advertising agency 18 Feet & Rising, which sold to the Unlimited Group in 2015. And though their origins were in the ad industry, advertising is now just the final touch that And Rising might add to a brand’s growth story. Trimble explains: “We’re a Creative Studio for new brands, helping them with brand strategy, brand design, early stage visual identity, marketing capability, and then we do get into messaging and right at the end of that might be ad campaigns.”

With more than a dozen ventures now under their belt – including ClearScore, valued at $700m; duolingo which IPO'd in 2021 for $3.66 billion; Seedlip which was acquired by Diageo in 2019; and the Ellie Goulding-backed drinks brand Served, which recently sold to Heineken - we asked Trimble to share some of the learnings from the world of creative ventures and brand acceleration.

Not all products need a brand, but brand drives valuation

Start-ups can get off the ground without worrying too much about brand. But when you want to move beyond seed funding, brand is critical.

Trimble: “Not all products actually need to be a brand, at least in the early stages. We always have to question whether the start-up really needs us. Because we're going to be coming in hot on design, hot on strategy, hot on content strategy. But we are living in a product era and brand is one of the smaller tools you reach for; in some cases, the product by itself has enough virality to take off. We'd always argue that having a brand from before day one is a brilliant thing and can help you. But to what extent is it going to be enough of a priority that it's going to make sense for you to come on board with us and ultimately giveaway a few points of equity to do that.

The impact we can make on brand, right up front, adds a tonne of value to a start-up, both in terms of trajectory and how they talk to investors. But later when we're noodling with campaign language, or media strategy and stuff like that, it's much harder to make a difference. There’s a really big difference between what is great branding, what is great marketing, and what is great venture-building. And ultimately what we’re all focussed on is what’s going to drive valuation; marketing is only one lever in the mix."

Creative is compostable, but design is the glue

And Rising focuses on strategy and design; although its founders came from advertising the company is in the business of building value, not big brand campaigns, and AI is already doing a pretty good job of the creative basics.

“A lot of what you put out creatively to help them build momentum is compostable - it goes out, it performs its function and then it just goes into the ground and you move on to the next one. So it isn't worth overspending time on that. Clarity does work better than creativity when you're new. And so using a lot of the design tools and AI tools for caption writing, or to write blog posts for SEO, that will just very quickly feed Google with a tonne of words that it can then recognise who you are and that drive Shopify and no-code platforms like Webflow. These all now have AI assistants in them and we're leaning on that to try and make things go faster for our clients. And then you can always go back and rework it.

If AI can write it nice and quick, and it's clear, then it's going to do the job more efficiently than us trying to fiddle around with that.

But the bit where the human input is still making quite a lot of difference is definitely at the design end. And design’s about much more than the logo, it’s also the colour palette, the general look and feel and connection of all the assets. It can glue everything together so it’s all consistent across all the different channels where you're not going to have a tonne of attention. Design is the bit where you can really make a difference. And it's worth being bolder there and careful of AI or anything that might make you a bit more generic. I can't really stress enough at the moment – and I say this having been at an ad guy for so long - design is the new lever that glues everything together."

To pivot is powerful

And Rising has seen at close quarters the messy, unpredictable path the brands have to take to become established.

“In all cases, where the brand first starts with its first product will never be where it actually ends up,” Trimble observes. “Where the big growth can happen is making a shift on from one product into another, and hopefully the frameworks we've designed for them gives them enough leverage to pivot; very often that first product gets them going, but it runs aground or the market moves on and so they've got to keep swimming to the next opportunity. Essentially, it’s about a future promise that a start-up is making to the investor community and maybe even to its consumers. Any new brand, when it’s starting out, is kind of saying to everyone: ‘Hey, look, we're going to Mars, but right now we're building a battery to power the rocket’.”

The value of your investment may go down as well as up

Being a creative ventures business means taking a risk, and there’s no formula to follow for success.

“Mathematically speaking, three out of every 10 investments are at risk of going pop, and you're going to lose all of your investment. And of the 12 we’ve done so far, that's been the case. Obviously, the quicker you can do your work and get the brand up and give it momentum and see if it's going to happen or not, the better. Sometimes you just back the wrong market category. A lot of the eco stuff that was really big - or was looking like it was getting really big - in lockdown hasn't worked out, particularly around vegan, and refillable beauty. Markets that look terribly exciting sometimes just don't work out. And yes it’s hard not to get frustrated by the founders that get stuck at that point, the ones that haven't got the resilience or energy to rethink or pivot.

But it's much more random than you think it is. You want to be able to go ‘oh, well as long as we tick these criteria, we're more immune to failure’. Always the ones that suddenly go pop are never the ones you expect, for loads of random reasons. Served is a really good example. We thought the brand was having a really hard time; they were moving away from the original hard seltzer which had been their unique positioning and moving into ready-to-drink which is so competitive. But then the brand got acquired by Heineken and it was a great deal for Served, so nobody actually knows which brands are going to win and which are going to lose, it’s chaotic and random and you can't really predict it or legislate for it.

Unfortunately, as investors, as the risk for the brand goes up, so does your risk go up. In the beginning, we were ‘gosh they need our help, this is when they need us most’. But from an investment standpoint, as they're flagging there’s less chance they can reraise; when you’re hot everyone wants to invest. And when you're not, it's really difficult to reignite investors’ interest. So you give them a little bit of ramp and you give them another blast, and you advise them, trying to reboot them, re-platform them and rebuild the trade story. But because it's a riskier investment now, we might ask for more equity. And it's at that point where founders start going, ‘but it's my baby’ and it’s then I feel they lose the vision. There's a time and a place to go, ‘it is worth us giving us up this equity because we just don't have the skill to take this forward’. And that's when we see the difference between the founders that have got real vision and the grit to move forward and the ones that then get a bit small-company-owner on you.”

But more money can mean more money (take note CMOs)

And Rising plans to set up its own Venture Capital fund, and CMOs would be the perfect investment partners Trimble says.

“The next stage for us will be raising a fund where we can make equity-only investments. The main role of that fund, though, will be more likely follow-on: so we get them going, get a bit of proof-of-concept moving, so they're going great guns and then we get to invest in the further rounds with cash to stop our position getting diluted or to get more upside.

It's definitely on our roadmap to move more fully in the venture capital business. We've made 12 investments, we've started to get the battle scars, the wins, particularly the exit. That exit is our first proof that we can pick winners. And so we're now probably just at the beginning of being able to turn our attention with some credibility towards the fund. However, that said, it’s still very early days and the most likely way we would do it would be to start with a micro fund, prove that out a little bit, then move to a slightly bigger fund, and so on.

So the first fund might be closer to a million at first, and we’re aiming to raise that from CMO angels, who can form a community of advisors around it to protect their own investments. If you're in marketing, you're in the business of putting capital behind ideas and that sort of makes you an investor anyway, it's the same skill. And that also makes the companies we’re investing in attractive to other investors – if you’re investing in consumer goods and the other fund has all come from former CMOs, that’s quite appealing. And it gives CMOS a way to micro invest. The next stage will be to make it a full-blown investment house and creative studio mixed into one. But yeah, that’s the next phase dream."

The And Rising Effect

Trimble talks us through some of the brands And Rising has been involved with.


"This was the Original Gangster for us. They were 12 people when we started working with them, their interface was designed and they were just shy of a million users, having been going for just over a year.

They’d already done a small TV advertising test and realised the medium was working for them so they held a pitch for an agency to create a proper campaign and we won the business. We created some telly ads and one of them with a dog in it started performing really well on a cost-per-acquisition basis, which was what ClearScore wanted: ads that drove more users. And that was really new for us; before that we’d been focussed on ads to build fame and build brand, and suddenly we realised TV ads could drive cost per action (CPA) and we could build business for new companies rather than trying to protect the olds ones, bearing in mind that at the time House of Fraser was going bust and leaving us with a debt. So rather than be the chemotherapy for old brands we decided to be the juice under new brands. And that’s how our whole And Rising model got going.

Clear Score got really big and now they’re worth hundreds of millions, they’re a quite mature business. We’ve just completed a 12 month project to create a whole new series of ads for them that will run in different markets around the world and take them through the next two years.

The ads pick up on the original Charlie and Moose characters and we’ve already had letters from viewers saying ‘thanks for bringing them back’. I think they’re the best ads we’ve ever made, proper ads in the Long And Short Of It Les Binet/Peter Field wisdom of combining short-term sales and long term brand building. I’ve made other more creative ads – I mean ads that other creative people would love, that were weird, experimental, over the horizon – but they didn’t necessarily work in the sense that the people loved them or the business went gangbusters on the back of them. This is a mature brand, with some mature people directing and shooting smart, mature ads for them. This is the finishing touch in our journey with them."


"In hindsight, Served did plenty of things right from the get go. Although we got involved in it because of the American hard seltzer trendline, which was taking over beer, the Served brand was never pinned to that. And that was just instinct, because they didn’t really like the tech bro thing that was attached to sector in the States and thought that’s not really gonna work here anyway. So by instinct, and by taste, Served was a bit more premium, it had a good supply chain story through the wonky fruit it sourced, it had cool founders.

And at the time we went in, they were bringing in Ellie Goulding as well. So we had some good extra bumps - she was putting some good cash in and bringing some of her glow as well; if you’ve got a creator in the mix that can bring some automatic eyeballs onto the brand without having to spend a tonne on advertising or marketing that can make a big difference. So the stage was set well. And with Heineken wanting to look beyond beer, Served was the perfect-shaped product, profile, and so on. So that's an example where the brand was conditioned not to get stuck in a particular market and could pivot, there was a little bit of wow factor from Ellie."


"Heali is a medical nutrition app. It’s a fantastic piece of technology but from the get-go they felt they were going to struggle to explain it to users. It's peer reviewed medical research about using food to help manage conditions. So it's complicated – it’s not a diet app, it’s not a Zoe. So they felt they needed a brand story to essentially make them attractive to people like Apple so that they feel like we're their kind of company, and also to not get muddled with some of the other brands that are out there.

It’s been a very difficult year to re-raise but they’ve just re-raised to take their product to the next level and become a fairly significant B2B platform in the US medical system, just as we're waking up to the diabetes crisis. So that's well timed. We did the first phase of brand work with them, and now we’re on to the second phase. They’re on their journey and going through the gears, so that’s really good."


"Tonic Health is a high dose supplements brand that has just got listed in Walmart. Its founder Sunna van Kampen has done two things brilliantly. We've provided all the brand and the packaging and what have you. And then he did his bit: when momentum was running down, he took to TikTok himself and he goes down supermarket aisles and points out the good food from the bad by reading you the labels, and now he has 15 million views a month and it became a TV channel, The Guy In The Tonic Hat. That really caught the eye of Tesco – it really keeps him present in the buyers’ minds - and helped get him listed.

And he did all that himself. He’s a natural salesman. We branded the channel, and steered him towards ‘more of this, less of that’ and some analytics on it. Our main role has been stopping the channel becoming so powerful in its own right, that it's got nothing to do with tonic supplements, because he can be in an aisle saying which red wines you should drink. So we said ‘this is cool, we love the way this is happening. But don't be just giving all your value away to TikTok, because they're getting rich off this; you need to get yourself rich off this’.

And then the other thing he's done brilliantly, which we've helped him with, is to pivot the product. So it started off being vitamins, which is quite a limited market but exciting, now he’s taken it into sugar free gummies for example, which are for kids. So we keep unlocking new products, and that brings new news to the brand, and opening up new revenue streams: the gummies vitamin kids market in the States is way bigger than the original immunity vitamin D stuff he was selling. So he's on a really good sort of pivot journey and it feels like he's gonna get there, there’s a lot of momentum in the business."


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