Popeyes, Our Fascination With “New,” and the Exhaustion of Climbing

Because I grew up in the New Orleans area I grew up eating and loving Popeye’s Chicken (Popeyes started in New Orleans). As a kid, my parents would drive us by Al Copeland’s house at Christmas, the founder of Popeyes, because of the incredible Christmas lights he put up each year. My childhood nostalgia had me rooting for Popeyes when they recently released their “new chicken sandwich.” Yes, it is called “new” though bread and chicken have been used together for years. What I did not expect was procuring one to be so challenging. They were “sold out” for weeks at the Popeyes closest to where we live. People went crazy for this “new” sandwich.

Our longing for new is fascinating. “New” seems to garner our attention.

The psychologist Abraham Maslow created what is famously called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Educators, counselors, and business leaders have used it as a tool to understand what motivates people. When marketers communicate new products or services, they often think about what need their product is meeting. On the bottom of the chart are your basic or physiological needs like food, water, and shelter. A new chicken sandwich is targeting your basic need. Above that is safety. Think of the advertisements for a car with a new safety feature. Then there is love and belonging (every single jewelry commercial). Above that is esteem where you are recognized and have some status. A new Peloton will do this for you! Finally, the pinnacle of the hierarchy is “self-actualization” where you become the best you can be as a person.

A few years ago I worked with a consultant who previously ran an advertising campaign for a major diaper company, and the goal of the campaign was to position diapers as far up the hierarchy as possible. They did tons of market research and made the whole campaign about the moment after the diaper is changed when a child smiles at the mom. They worked to position diapers not as meeting a physiological need or even a safety need – but a love and belonging need. Advertisers work hard to move their product up the hierarchy as high as possible. People who study what motivates us know that while we are attracted to new things, what we really want is to be new people.

Our fascination with “new” reveals a deeper longing – a longing to be new people. The hierarchy encourages us to climb this pinnacle on our own – that we can make yourself the best version of you. Sadly, Maslow and others believed that few people actually get to the top. It is an exhausting way to live — to constantly climb to try and make ourselves new people.

The Christian faith offers a beautiful alternative. Instead of climbing to get to a new you, God offers us a staggering promise that He will be the One to make us new … if we quit striving and surrender. Instead of working to make ourselves new, God freely and graciously makes us new. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” (II Corinthians 5:17) “Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.” (II Corinthians 4:16)

C.S. Lewis wrote: “Your real, new self will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him.”