The terrifying brand of The Handmaids Tale

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

1 May 2017

Handmaids Tale taps into the greatest of all emotional triggers

Talk about great timing. The Handmaids Tale, currently streaming on Hulu, presents many viewers’ worst nightmare considering today’s political climate. And does it in terrifying fashion.

The first three episodes are available now, with Hulu trotting out a new episode each Wednesday. Spacing the episodes out is a sign of mercy. There’s no way you’d want to binge watch this because your heart and soul couldn’t take it.

“But The Handmaids Tale is more acute in its understanding of personal fear. A powerlessness that takes it beyond simple liberal hysteria.”


Handmaids TaleThe Handmaids Tale stars Elisabeth Moss of Mad Men fame as a handmaid in some distant future where religious and military zealots are running the country, executing everyone from a gay woman to a Jew because they are “an abomination.” Handmaids are servants for the rich who simply use them as “a womb on two legs” to give birth during a time when most women are barren.

Based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaids Tale feels timelier now than it did 30 years ago. The execution of the series is astonishing, swathed in colors so rich (especially red) to make the atmosphere oppressive and frightening. This is no feel-good production.

The emotional trigger of The Handmaids Tale

As brand strategist, The Handmaids Tale fascinates me because it conjures up fears many of us have after Donald Trump’s election. While this is an extreme result of that fear, the series taps into the strongest of all emotional triggers: Fear.

Persuasive and preferred brands align themselves with an emotional trigger. That trigger can be about trashing the nonsense and just doing it (Nike). Or it can be a reflection of your belief that you are different (Apple’s Think Different.)

The Handmaids Tale accomplishes something I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before. Aligning with a fear throbbing today. Some might equate it to the nuclear holocaust TV movie The Day After, which premiered in 1983 during the last stage of the Cold War. That certainly tapped into a fear.

But The Handmaids Tale is more acute in its understanding of personal fear. A powerlessness that takes it beyond simple liberal hysteria. Its acting is better than the soulless performances of The Day After. The storytelling is brilliantly paced. And its depictions of horror deliver the power of the silent era.

The fourth episode arrives Wednesday. I’ll be watching. And terrified to start it.

See more posts in the following related categories: emotional triggers Handmaids Tale Hulu


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