Marketing veteran steps into Ohio tourism role

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 11, 2014 at 12:57 pm •  Published: January 11, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A former marketing executive for Bob Evans Farms who has been tapped to be Ohio's tourism director is looking beyond farm fresh for what makes Ohio cool.

Mary Cusick, 58, worked for the Ohio-based restaurant chain owner for more than 30 years. Now as head of TourismOhio, she is charged with working alongside an advisory board of tourism and travel industry leaders to develop a marketing strategy for the state and help boost the number of visitors here.

"I want to be able to give Ohioans every reason in the world to stay here, visit Ohio and really experience Ohio," Cusick said during a recent interview with The Associated Press.

A 2012 law created the TourismOhio office and established a new funding model for its budget. Its marketing dollars are based on sales-tax revenue growth experienced by travel and tourism businesses. The office is in its first year of the new funding model and has $10 million.

Cusick stepped into her role in early December. She plans to work on a spending plan for the marketing money with the advisory panel, which met for the first time several weeks ago. Cusick said one of her main priorities in the new year is building a brand for the state.

"I'm not sure what people think when they think of Ohio," said Cusick, who was chief marketing officer for Bob Evans Farms Inc. until January 2011.

The state's tourism agency has had success with its promotional campaign — "Too Much Fun For Just One Day" — but Ohio lacks a slogan or tagline, she said.

"We have to look around the world and understand what makes us unique and distinctive," Cusick said. "The best way to build a brand is to be authentic."