The economy hotel chain in 1993 began abold reimaging program that included narrowly targeted advertising and a $60 million facelift.
With a limited ad budget-$2 million last year-La Quinta decided to narrow its advertising to focus on its core market, "road warriors," or traveling sales executives. Word-of-mouth would bring the rest, executives felt.
Advertising from GSD&M, Austin, Texas, took an irreverent flare, featuring actual guests-a real-estate sales executive, a carpet salesman and a woman's apparel sales rep-pitching the chain's value, free continental breakfast and new look.
"We're letting [our customers] do what they do best-sell product," says John Kaegi, La Quinta's senior VP-marketing.
Direct mail sent to frequent guests, including an audio newsletter, also is used.
The in-progress reimaging program already has boosted La Quinta occupancies and revenues, even in the midst of construction disruptions. Occupancies are up 3.9 points to 65.4% for the first quarter ended March 31, compared with the same period the previous year.
Revenues jumped 29% to $78.2 million; operating income increased 23% to $20.3 million.
Mr. Kaegi, 45, was hired in 1992 as part of a new management team, and he came aboard because of the challenge La Quinta posed.
He even helped choose the architectural firm for the new Southwestern motif.
It was a return to the hotel business for him; previously senior VP-marketing & strategic planning for KinderCare Learning Centers, he was with Holiday Inns before that.
What's up next for Mr. Kaegi and the hotel chain? Ad spending, budgeted at slightly more than $4 million this year.