Dividend aristocrats are a select group of companies which have proven the financial soundness to increase dividends over the last 25 consecutive years. Among that exclusive group, Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG), Clorox (NYSE:CLX) and Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL) stand out due to their rock-solid competitive strengths and defensive characteristics.

Procter & Gamble stands the test of time
Procter & Gamble was incorporated in 1890 and has successfully grown through all kinds of economic and political scenarios, including recessions, wars and disasters of different kind and scale through the decades. The company serves approximately 4.8 billion people in 180 countries around the world.

Procter sells everyday necessities in areas like fabric and home care, which accounts for 32% of revenue, beauty (24%), baby and family care (20%), health care (15%) and grooming (9%). Procter & Gamble owns 25 billion dollar brands, including names like Head & Shoulders, Duracell, Pantene, Gillette, Oral-B, Ariel and Pampers among many others.

Growth has slowed down lately, but Procter is implementing a change in top management to accelerate innovation and increase profitability. Former CEO A.G. Lafley is retaking the reins and coming back to the CEO position.

Even if his tenure is transitory until the company finds a new permanent CEO, Lafley could reinvigorate Procter considering his achievements during his previous tenure as CEO from 2000 to 2009. During that period, the company more than doubled sales and grew its portfolio of billion-dollar brands from 10 to 23.

Procter & Gamble has paid regular dividends for 123 consecutive years and has raised those dividends over the last 57 years in a row. This diversified juggernaut pays a dividend yield of 2.9% and carries a reasonable payout ratio near 56% of earnings.

Shiny clean dividends from Clorox
Clorox is traditionally known for its bleach business, but the company is about much more than that: Clorox has diversified operations in more than 100 countries operating in businesses like home care (17% of total revenue), laundry (10%), bags and wraps (14%), charcoal (9%), dressings and sauces (4%) and water filtration (4%) among several others.

Through a global portfolio of widely recognized brands like Clorox, Glad, Hidden Valley, Kingsford and Brita among others, Clorox owns the first or second market share position in 90% of the markets in which it does business. Market leadership, brand recognition and economies of scale generate strong competitive advantages for this defensive powerhouse.

The company has expanded into natural and organic products with brands like Green Works and Burt's Bees. According to management, Burt's Bees delivered double-digit volume growth during the last quarter. The lifestyle segment is looking particularly strong for the company with volume growing by 4% and revenues increasing 5% during the last quarter versus the same period in the previous year.

Clorox pays a dividend yield of 3% and the company has a moderate payout ratio around 60% of earnings. Clorox has consecutively raised dividends over the last 36 years, so investors have good reasons to expect sustained dividend increases from the company over years to come.

Colgate makes investors smile
Colgate-Palmolive is a global leader in oral care; the segment generates nearly 44% of the company's revenue thanks to a market share of more than 45% in toothpaste and over 33% in the manual toothbrush business on a worldwide scale. In addition to this, Colgate offers sizable exposure to other businesses like personal care, home care, and pet care, which represent 22%, 21%, and 13% of sales, respectively.

Colgate sells its products in more than 200 countries and makes over 75% of its revenue outside the U.S., which provides geographic diversification and growth opportunities in emerging markets for the company.

The Asia region, which represents 14% of total sales, is a particularly promising segment for the company: unit volume sales in the region increased by 11% during the last quarter, far outpacing all other geographic segments.

Market leadership and brand differentiation generate above average profitability for Colgate, the company has an after-tax return on capital of 31.4% versus 17.7% for its peer group according to management.

A leadership position in a defensive business like oral care has produced many smiles on investors over the decades: Colgate has paid uninterrupted dividends since 1895, and it has raised those dividends for 50 years in a row. The company pays a dividend yield of 2.1% and has a sustainable payout ratio around 52% of earnings.

Bottom line
Procter & Gamble, Clorox and Colgate enjoy rock solid competitive advantages in stable and mature industries. These companies have proven the strength to deliver consistent dividend increases through the years and there is no reason to believe that is going to change anytime soon. Slow and steady sometimes wins the race, and it certainly can provide some stability for your portfolio in times of uncertainty.

Andrés Cardenal has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Procter & Gamble. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.