Guest post from Maria Ross, founder and chief strategist of Red Slice  a branding and marketing consultancy based in the US. She is the author of Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget available on Amazon.co.uk

Telling your brand story is sort of like a newspaper article: it’s all about the lead. Some folks may call this the 'lead offer'. What does your business hang its hat on? When customers have that certain need or desire that certain experience, is it your company that comes to mind first?

Having a lead offer doesn’t mean you can’t have secondary messages. I often use the example of Nordstrom and Walmart. Nordstrom leads with a customer service and quality offer; Walmart with one about lowest prices.  Does this mean Walmart is rude to their customers? Heck no. It just means that when you are looking for low prices, they want you to think of them. If you are thinking of a good customer service experience first, then maybe you should go elsewhere.

Recently, Delta announced they were going to start leading their brand story with 'service' not 'size'.  After acquiring Northwest Airlines, they became the largest player by traffic – until United recently merged with Continental.  So now Delta is switching stories and focusing their budget on service: new flat-bed seats, video on demand and upgraded facilities in key markets.

United may decide to focus on size for a while in terms of the benefits it provides to customers: more routes, more convenience to get where you want to go, a larger network, etc.  (Sidenote: big is only a relevant claim if it benefits a customer in some way and makes their life better, offers them more access, etc. Big for 'big’s sake' just becomes chest-thumping.) We will have to see how the United-Continental brand story shakes out.

What do you lead with? Can you articulate the main offer you want to be known for? Service? Selection? Style? Convenient locations? Cutting-edge technology solutions? You can’t be everything so pick the main offer, the main place where do you want to “fit” inside your customers’ brains and build up from there.