There's an entire army of folks who work at Fool HQ, and only a few dozen are the hard-core analysts who have been investing since puberty. But by virtue of their employer, Fools from across the company have become investors, some rather successful. Brand director Rick Engdahl, a 10-year veteran of the Fool, has had a good run with a brand-centric analysis of companies. Here, he shares his winning investing approach along with four companies he's watching right now.

"A company can have a great brand and amazing products and still be a really bad investment, either because shares are too expensive or because it's run by bumbling idiots," says Rick. "But I've found that if you start the process by looking at companies that have significant brand equity and then dig from there, you're going to be in pretty good shape."

Admittedly not a numbers guy, Rick tends to rely on Fool content both free and premium (one benefit of working here is access to all our newsletter services) to support or refute his initial interest in a business. And as a guy who sits within earshot of several of our analysts, he can get a sense of what businesses have the stock jocks buzzing (another benefit of working at the Fool; click here to go to the Fool's jobs page).

The brand watchlist
So, what's Rick watching these days?

First up is the happiest place on earth. Ranked No. 41 on Millward Brown's list of the top 100 most valuable global brands 2010, Disney (NYSE: DIS) is among the companies that Rick admires most. He owned both Marvel and Pixar before they became part of the Mouse's empire, and as he points out: "I especially like that Disney was on the same page with those two acquisitions. It's nice when a big old company finds new ways to be fresh and relevant."

From the Matterhorn-level view, Rick then digs in on the Fool analysis of the companies in question, such as yesterday's article by Tim Beyers. Tim wrote:

[C]ompared to peers, the House of Mouse offers an attractive amount of institutional headroom. Insiders also own a healthy slice of the business, led by board member and former Pixar co-founder Steve Jobs. But good as it is, the company's ownership profile doesn't keep me in Disney's stock. I've kept the shares assigned to me after the Marvel acquisition because I believe Disney will reap more from Marvel's properties that the comic book king ever would have on its own. Exceptional fourth-quarter results suggest I'm right.

Perhaps not surprisingly for a guy who likes to think different, Rick also has a lot of respect for Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), No. 3 on the Millward Brown list. Although he's careful to point out he's not in the cult of Jobs, he's owned shares of the business for a long time and it still resides at the top of his watch list. "David Gardner -- and his results -- have changed my thinking," Rick says. "He doesn't really care if shares seem overpriced. If it's a great business with a history of innovation and outperformance, you shouldn't be too concerned about valuation."

Fool analyst Cliff D'Arcy agreed in a January article:

Despite its large cash pile, Apple would fail most value-investing tests, thanks to no dividend and a price-to-earnings ratio of around 22. Nevertheless, with its vast competitive moat and plenty of room to grow its modest global market shares in laptops, desktops, and smartphones, I wouldn't bet against Apple's continuing ability to thrash the Standard & Poor's 500 index. If quality counts, then "the Big Apple" could one day see its shares hit $1,000. Who knows?

Finally, Rick's got his eye on a Fool favorite, both as a stock and a Friday-afternoon-on-the-balcony product. Although it's not much of a threat to appear on any top-brands lists because of its niche nature, Boston Beer (NYSE: SAM) does have a loyal following. Rick argues, "There's a great story here -- little guy going up against the giants and making huge inroads by making a better product."

The stock isn't exactly cheap, as analyst Charly Travers writes, but that doesn't change the overall investing thesis. As Charly puts it:

[Boston Beer CEO Jim] Koch's recipe for success is pretty simple: make a product people like. That's worked out well for Boston Beer's long-term shareholders. This stock is almost a ten-bagger over the past decade, and with a market cap of just $1.2 billion this company has a lot of room to keep growing. As a Sam Adams fan I'm pleased to note that Boston Beer is now the largest American brewer.

And that's why Rick is watching. You too can watch these companies with the mere flick of a mouse -- click one of the links below to build your watchlist, new and free from the Fool, to get all the daily numbers and news about the businesses that matter to you. Sign up now and get instant access to "6 Stocks to Watch from David and Tom Gardner," a free report on a handful of companies the Fool's co-founding brothers think you should be watching. The service and the report are free when you click any of the links below:

Roger Friedman owns none of the stocks mentioned here. Rick owns 'em all. Apple, Disney, and Boston Beer are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. The Fool owns shares of and has written puts on Apple. 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.