PM scholar overseas visits

Report on Fulbright visit to Canada to work on Political Marketing

by Ken Cosgrove


I was very fortunate to hold the Fulbright Research Chair at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario Canada during the Fall semester of 2011. I was housed in the political science department at Carleton and gracious hosts they were. They made me feel very welcome and offered a number of key insights into politics and parties in the Canadian system. I spent my fall working on the first part of a comparative research project that looks at political marketing and branding in Canada and the United States. I also taught a graduate level political marketing class that was cross listed between the political science department and the new Riddell School of Political Management. The class focused on the origins of the market orientation, the importance of images and emotions, the importance of understanding the marketing model, the key role of branding and understanding segmentation both in the real world and online. It was wonderful to have a colleague interested in the study of political marketing as Andre Turcotte is. Being able to bounce ideas and questions off of Andre was something for which I shall always be grateful. Richard Nimijean was also really helpful. Between Andre’s warm welcome and support and having a class full of very bright young Canadians to bounce questions off of on a weekly basis, I had a very good set of teachers indeed!!!


Studying political marketing in another country, even one with which I had a great deal of familiarity as is the case with Canada, is a fascinating experience. Housing it while working and living in said nation’s capital was an even more interesting one and it took me back to my days as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow. Just as in DC, Ottawa was filled with subtle nuances and backroom tales about political life that appear nowhere else. One of the oddball results of this experience is that I am probably now one of the least representative people in North America, having spent time living inside the beltway in DC and inside the Queensway (to steal a line from Warren Kinsella) in Ottawa.  What I learned about Canada is that its professional political class is smaller and more widely scattered than what is found in the United States (but no less professional or accomplished in its field), that electoral, political and party systems matter in terms of how political marketing gets done, that what the audience will and will not tolerate can shape the way in which marketers approach them (in the U.S. hotter negative and comparison ads work well but in Canada humorous negative and comparative ads work well), and that social media is changing the branding and marketing landscape very rapidly giving political marketers a challenge to keep up with it.


The project on which I am working and of which this experience was part is a comparison of political marketing, with an emphasis on branding, in the USA and Canada. I was fortunate to interview 27 high level Canadian political practitioners and interact with a large number of journalists and scholars during my time in country.  This was probably the best education anyone could hope for and I am working hard to make sure that the end product justifies their time and trust in me.


I spent time in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Calgary on this journey. The biggest things that stand out about Canada are: 1) it is a country of cities more than a country of the enormous landmass it occupies) it is a country of regions more than it is a single nation state. Calgary was very different from Toronto and Montreal but both still shared a certain sense that embodied Canada (and it wasn’t the weather either, the locals everywhere I travelled told me how lucky I was to be there during the warmest fall and early winter in decades), and 3) like most nation-states, including the one I live in, there were the things Canada is versus the things Canada aspires to be.


You can see the longer version of what I think I learned here:


Or see the very condensed version here:


All in all, this was a tremendous personal and professional experience and one for which I shall always be grateful to the Fulbright Foundation of Canada, Carleton University, Council for the International Exchange of Scholars, the U.S. Consulate General in Calgary and the University of Alberta Institute of American Studies (the latter two organized my Calgary visit and hosted the lecture linked above). In conclusion, if you’ve ever wondered if you should branch out and add a comparative case to your research or pursue an opportunity with the Fulbright program,  I give you my consumer testimonial: go for it, you won’t be disappointed.


Ken Cosgrove

Suffolk University

Boston, MA USA