With the rise of Airbnb, hotels now find themselves literally in competition with people's living rooms. The online hospitality marketplace has created demand for "having experiences and feeling they were in an environment where they were comfortable," Langford said.
Yotel even sees Airbnb as complementary to its offerings. "With Airbnb, it works much better for a much longer stay, but I think the hassle of it and much personal experience can be quite daunting if you only have a one- or two-night stay in a city you don't know," Berrington said.
The legacy chains entering the market remain optimistic about hotel products both old and new. Vib, for example, gives Best Western a foothold in higher-end markets, while Glo provides an alternative to its existing core brand — despite the risk of cannibalization. That's because "not all customers want [the Vib or Glo] type of approach," said Ron Pohl, COO of Best Western Hotels & Resorts. Meanwhile, Tru's Hilton branding communicates quality and consistency, according to Jaritz, and guests can participate in the company-wide Hilton Honors rewards program.
In short, the rise in new brands and offshoots is an easier way for legacy hospitality chains to stay competitive with new players such as Yotel and Airbnb. "It's kind of like renovating a house versus building anew," said Langford. "Sometimes you need to start with a fresh sheet of paper."
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that Yotel guest rooms are currently featuring "smart beds" that convert into couches.
— By Mike Juang, special to CNBC.com