I ran across an interesting article the other day at Kiplinger.com. In it, Jeffrey Kosnett warned investors not to marry their stocks. He added, "In life, loyalty is a virtue. In stocks, it smacks of stubbornness."

And I agree.

But Kosnett went on to propose five stocks that investors could conceivably love forever. And they're not bad companies. However, the thing about investing is that you can't just buy a stock and forget about it.

It can be hard to accept, but companies we think will be around forever sometimes disappear. Think back to the 1960s and 1970s. Who'd have imagined that PanAm wouldn't be around today? Woolworth was a fixture in America beginning in 1878, and what remains of it today is Foot Locker (NYSE:FL).

Factors to love
Now that I've knocked down the idea of hanging on to a company forever, permit me to waffle a bit. Because I do like the idea of hanging on to companies for decades, as long as they're still growing and delivering value. The only trouble is, just how do you find the best companies to own for long periods? Here are some traits to look for:

  • A strong brand. Brand power can fuel a company for a long time and provide flexibility in times of trouble. Think, for example of DaimlerChrysler's (NYSE:DCX) Mercedes-Benz name. It's hard to imagine that label not representing quality.

  • Entrenchment. Companies such as Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) have become so dominant that it's hard to imagine a world where they don't play a large part. With most of us using Windows operating system, are we likely to switch anytime soon? Probably not.

  • Small, repeat purchases. Here I think of companies such as Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO), where people are likely to keep buying out of habit and familiarity, and because it never seems to hurt much to spend just a dollar or so a pop. Coke is also a very strong, entrenched brand.

  • Important, unavoidable industries. Pharmaceutical companies seem as though they'll be around for a long time, because we don't seem to be close to running out of diseases to treat or cure. When you need your medicine, you'll probably buy and take it whether you want to or not, no matter what it costs (if you can afford it). Related to this are medical equipment firms, such as one of Kasnett's choices, Stryker (NYSE:SYK).

Find more stocks to love
So what particular stocks might you be able to love forever? Well, I'm afraid my answer is still ... none. But the names above are a good start, and the traits I described would also lead you to quality businesses such as PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) and Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG)

If you'd like to learn about some other candidates, ones with some research behind them, take a page from Fool co-founders David and Tom Gardner. As they search out companies in Motley Fool Stock Advisor, they want businesses that are:

  1. Owned by other great investors.
  2. Built to last for 100 years or more.
  3. Little known, yet dominating in growing industries.
  4. Steered by committed management teams.
  5. Governed by the highest corporate values.

Since inception in 2002, that tack has earned them returns of 72%, vs. 31% for the S&P 500. Even better, these are stocks you should be able to love for decades, which means the returns will get even better over time.

You can take advantage of a free trial (no obligation) of Stock Advisor for 30 days by clicking here. Join the service and read about each recommendation in detail and see which ones pull your heartstrings. There's no obligation to subscribe.

And here's to big profits in your future!

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and PepsiCo. Microsoft and Coke are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.