OK, Fools, it's chart time. Click on this nifty bit of hypertext to reveal a 10-year plot of Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG). Not too bad, huh? Sure, there's that nasty dip in the middle, but, come on now -- those wise enough to have taken full advantage of it had a great chance to improve the cost basis. Now, have a look at P&G's dividend history; the chart and the dividend chain tell a nice story of past performance.

And I'd be willing to bet that P&G will do well going forward. Why, you ask? Would you believe because of a stain-removing pen, of all things? You probably think I'm crazy right about now. I mean, this is not the most exciting innovation in history. It's not as though we're discussing a new biotechnological achievement in the fight against cancer, or the development of an advanced supercomputer.

True enough. The Tide to Go stain-removing pen -- which works on colors, unlike the Clorox bleach stain pen -- isn't going to shatter the earth. But it will come in extremely handy. Everyone is well-acquainted with the problem of an obnoxiously unexpected stain. You're sitting there in the pizza parlor enjoying some pepperoni-topped pie, when all of a sudden -- wham! Pizza sauce all over your dress shirt. Quite the predicament.

The Tide to Go pen is just one more example of P&G's ability to thrive on brand extensions. The Tide moniker is a powerful touchstone in the laundry aisle. People of all ages and from all walks of life know what a box of Tide looks like and why consumers use it. Now, is this pen the sartorial savior that it claims to be? I haven't the foggiest idea, but assuming P&G's research and development people got it right (and I presume they did), the premise is correct: Clothing stains are such a menace to our everyday lives that a Tide-branded pen will bring money into the company's coffers and help keep the mindshare of the grocery-shopping set firmly in P&G's court.

Shareholders can count on P&G's resume when it comes to brand management and innovation. It's part of a great sector that includes Clorox (NYSE:CLX) and Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE:CL). Many think these stocks are defensive plays for hard economic times. But I say they make classic long-term growth vehicles, as well. And who knows? Maybe consumers will celebrate the 50th anniversary of this pen way down the road, just as its P&G's colleague Crest is doing now. Fifty years of dividend reinvestment with P&G certainly sounds nice.

Looking for more on Procter & Gamble and its competitors? Check out the following:

Post any "clean" thoughts you may have at the Fool's Procter & Gamble discussion board .

Colgate-Palmolive is a stock pick of the Motley Fool Inside Value newsletter. Editor Philip Durell isn't satisfied until he finds values with significant margins of safety. Sign up for a free trial.

Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares in none of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy.