How Mackie Biernacki made a high-end beauty brand from wrinkly tubers

Who: Andrea Orazi and Mackie Biernacki.

What: The creation and launch of Orazi, a Canadian high-end, clean beauty line.

When & Where: The products are available now through the brand website, but bricks-and-mortar retail distribution is in the works, with marketing to follow.

Why: In the very crowded skincare category, Orazi hopes to stand out in two ways: First, there’s the unique formulation of the products, which are clean, green, and made with the Tigernut plant. And second, with a unique approach to communicating the brand story to consumers.

What’s a Tigernut? A few years ago, Tigernut was getting attention as a new “superfood” (see this 2016 article from Vogue, for example).

Canadian entrepreneur Andrea Orazi was working with Tigernut food products when she started looking into the benefits of using Tigernut for skincare. Without going too deep into the science, Tigernut contains a lot of Papilactyl D, which produces collagen. As most people know, collagen makes skin springy and less wrinkly. The Tigernut also isn’t a nut at all. It’s a tuber—a wrinkly one. (See, not too science-y.)

How (the partnership): Mackie Biernacki are business partners on this one, helping build the brand from the ground up. “From the very beginning, we have looked at partnering with clients and their products,” said Steph Mackie. She and agency co-founder Mark Biernacki are creatives who are also “business junkies,” she said. They’re interested in everything to do with creating and building a brand—from product research and development, to manufacturing, logistics and distribution, and even, if required, learning about the collagen-creating benefits of Papilactyl D.

When Andrea Orazi started to explore skincare, the agency partners wanted in. It was a new product line, backed up with rigorous scientific proof of its efficacy, created by someone they trusted, and made from a plant that made for some great storytelling.

How (the communications): The key step in helping tell that story was hiring former beauty editor Antonia Whyatt as editorial content director at the agency, working to ensure Orazi gets covered by the beauty magazines that remain hugely influential with consumers.

“She had that global beauty expertise for the brand and messaging and product development,” said Mackie. “And what [beauty] magazines are looking for, what ingredients were the right ingredients versus the wrong ingredients, and where should we be in terms of retail.”

“When Steph approached me about Orazi, it just hit all the notes that I knew were important,” said Whyatt. “It had the science to back it up, it had the clean green story. It had a passionate founder with a long history of research and science. And it had a brilliant brand-building team who would make it look and feel the way editors—and therefore consumers—want to encounter a product.”

The brand look: They drew on the the organic and abstract forms of Matisse, the Tigernut’s African roots, and “topped it with a little Saint Tropez glamour,” said Mackie in a release introducing Orazi. “The wordmark was all about being luxurious with a personality. The interior of the packaging has a hint of surprise green, tied to the grasses, to give an initial surprise boost and then a daily injection of joy.”

What’s next: Orazi’s four products—Orazi Age-defying Skin Sorbet, Anti-wrinkle Neck Smoothie, Restorative Cleansing Oil and Dew You(th) Serumare in market now, for sale at the Orazi site.

They are working on an ad campaign, but the immediate priority is on finding retail partners—they’re talking to two in Canada and one in the US. And Whyatt is also working to get coverage in the top beauty magazines.

It’s a more “modern approach” to PR, she said. Her background means that she can talk to editors as a peer who understands what they need to know about the products, and the science that makes Orazi a good story in the luxury beauty category.

The right kind of retail presence and editorial coverage are critical components of this band strategy, they said. “The product we’ve created is high-end, clean luxury… It’s the Goop market,” said Whyatt. “You want people to encounter it, understand it, and feel confident in it. And so the way that they encounter it is very important.”

Are they using influencers? The short answer here is no, although they have talked a lot about it. “There really hasn’t been anybody that fits the bill for us, versus looking at magazines and the beauty editors being our influencers,” said Mackie.

And we quote: “The team at Mackie Biernacki truly shares my original passion for Tigernut’s possibilities… Together, we are bringing my dream to life—of developing a clean, science-backed brand of powerful and protective products.” —Andrea Orazi

David Brown