Brand: La Quinta Hotels
Link: Click Here
Target: Business Travelers on a budget
An average guy in a suit is taking a business trip with a very large, very loud colleague in an economy car. The voiceover says “repeat after me en Espagnol – coche compacto – small car” and then as the large c0-worker gets louder – “coche muy compacto – very small car.”
La Quinta sits in a very difficult space for branding. The field of budget business hotels is overstuffed with entries from Marriott Courtyard to Days Inn trying to woo salespeople and other frequent budget business travelers. It is difficult to compete purely on the quality of the product in this category. In fact, there has been something of an arms race and, unknown to many upscale business travelers, the amenities provided by the hotels often surpass the Hyatts, Marriotts and Westins of the world. A Courtyard or La Quinta customer can not only expect a clean room and a newspaper in the morning, but a complimentary hot/cold breakfast, free high-speed Internet access and free local calls. The main thing missing is room service and glitzy lobbies.
Given the stiff competition around product-oriented benefits, real branding is important for a chain to succeed in this category, particularly when competing against Marriott. The difficulty for any chain is finding something that is both relevant and ownable.
La Quinta – a Dallas-based chain – is drawing on the uniqueness of its name to convey a sense of Spanish or Latin Hospitality. The premise seems to be a type of old-world charm that might not be available in other hotels. They’ve nailed their target audience in this spot (the two guys stuck in a small rental car gets it perfectly), and if the proposition is relevant it might work. I’m not really in the target although I do occassionally stay in this class of hotel when I’m running workshops for companies with headquarters in small towns.
The brand manager in me loves the fact that La Quinta is embracing the ethnic implications of their name. That’s something that makes this positioning ownable. Marriott cannot copy it. And that is the first step towards great branding.
La Quinta is going to have to spell out just exactly what makes their brand of hospitality better. They may be playing a little coy about whether it is Spanish, Mexican or some other sort of Latin variant. And I think if they are serious they are going to have to differentiate the product more to reflect this. What would I expect at a La Quinta that would remind me of being South of the Border (in a good way)? Do the rooms look a bit different? Are the floors spanish tile instead of carpet? Whatever the answer, La Quinta would be more succesful if they made their product offering different and unique even if it is not universally appealing. That will give them the opportunity to build some true brand lovers.
Branding Bottom Line -
A promising start towards differentiated branding, but La Quinta needs to integrate it with some real differences in the product.