How not to write good copy – lessons from the Kaiser Chiefs

© Drew de F Fawkes

Incredibly (inexplicably?) popular, the Kaiser Chiefs have been churning out “indie rock” for the past 15 years. Although their records are undeniable best-sellers (1.1 million singles and counting), they are also notable for having some of the dodgiest lyrics imaginable.

But this is not necessarily a bad thing – particularly for the copywriter determined to improve their own skills.

So without further ado, here are three things the Kaiser Chiefs can teach you about bad copywriting.

1. A bad rhyme is a crime

Everyday I love you less and less
I can’t believe once you and me did sex
It makes me sick to think of you undressed
Since everyday I love you less and less

Everyday I love you less and less – Employment – 2004

Kaiser Chief songs are notable for their over-reliance on rhyme, leading to many, many examples like the above atrocity. While pop fans may excuse you for mangling sentences to fit a rhyming structure, potential customers reading your copy will not.

Besides, ‘sex’ doesn’t even rhyme with ‘less’. Nor ‘undressed’. Oh dear.

2. Showing off is a turn off

A friend of a friend he got beaten
He looked the wrong way at a policeman
Would never of happened to Smeaton
An old Leodensian

I predict a riot – Employment – 2004

Great copy is about communicating concepts quickly in a language your reader understands. This appalling example shows how crappy rhyming quickly leads to obscure references that your intended audience will almost certainly fail to grasp.

Perhaps a small section of the Kaiser Chief fan base will understand the Leeds connection (a resident is known as a Leodensian), but who the hell is “Smeaton”? If your reader has to go away and look up references, you aren’t going to sell a single unit.

And don’t even get me started on ‘would never of happened’.

3. Filler is a killer

I only wanna see the
I only wanna see the kinda girl you are
I only wanna see the
I only wanna see the kinda girl you are
I only wanna see the
I only wanna see the kinda girl you are
I only wanna see the
I only wanna see the kinda girl you are

Kinda girl you are – The Future is Medieval – 2011

Kinda girl you are is just 2:36 in duration, yet the majority of the lyrics involve repetition of the above, or variations on the word ‘oh’. This makes for a great singalonga-Kaiser record, but it is also a terrible approach to web copywriting.

Simple concepts usually only require a small amount of copy, but imposing an arbitrary word count often means a lot of padding, the recipe for an instantly forgettable article. Exactly what you don’t want to do when building brand awareness and credibility.

The Kaiser Chiefs have clearly hit songwriting gold with a string of number one hits, despite their lyrics failing to improve over the past decade and a half. They have discovered a formula that works very well for them and their fans. And their success proves that in the pop world, sometimes it is ok to break the rules for the sake of maintaining rhythm.

And for the writer keen to create copy that converts, the Kaiser Chiefs are a useful resource – but only to learn how to write bad copy.

No animals were harmed during the production of this post, but one pop star was mildly irked:

Ricky Wilson shows his displeasure

 

 

 

 

 

What’s your take? Leave me a comment.

You can also find out what happened next in The day I “insulted” a pop star and irked some copywriters.

Image © Drew de F Fawkes. Lyrics quoted here are most definitely the legal belongings of the Kaiser Chiefs and I neither seek nor desire any right towards them at all.

Written by Ben Lloyd


Ben Lloyd has worked in the IT industry since 1996, covering a number of roles from helpdesk support to network management and everything in between. Tech Write is built on this experience, offering outstanding technical copywriting services to agencies and clients across the world.

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