I used to go for local hotels up until about ten years ago but like Simon found that sometimes the standard verses price can be uncomparable. I joined Accor Favorite Guest as I spent some time in France, Belgium and Holland and places in the UK i visit had either Ibis or Novotel. Proir to this I used Travel Inn but was disappointed that they did not have a loyalty scheme which convinced me to move to Accor.
When on a few occasions I could not get Accor brands I joined Priorty Club which opened a new world for me. A colleague spoke of how he had enjoyed Hilton, just as a Hilton Gold VIP dropped on my mat, so I tried it and have not looked back, I was amazed at points and BA miles. It happened just as I was having a battle with Accor in getting points credited for a stay in the Sofitel in Dubai which took 11 months to be credited!
I now only have one Accor site I use and my order of preference is Hilton, priority Club, Radisson, Accor then whatever else is available. Certainly the loyal scheme has played a big part in my hotel choices, but when you check in at a hotel I think you like to know what standard the room is going to be and usually if you stick with a choice chain(s) then you know what you are going to get. If things don’t meet expectations usually they are rectified without too much trouble