They're not the sort of names you often brag about owning. The fact is, however, dividend stocks are workhorses for more investors than you might suspect -- even if their primary purpose is just generating cash used to purchase growth companies.

With that as the backdrop, if you're looking to replace some of your fading dividend payers -- or simply aiming to increase your overall exposure to dividend names -- here are three great picks that have become even more attractive in just the past few weeks.

1. Not yesteryear's IBM

Yes, the same International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM) that was once a technology titan but faded into a backdrop of irrelevancy is back! Indeed, things have changed dramatically for ol' Big Blue. Now the company's focused on things like cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and mobility, while legacy offerings such as mainframes and PCs are a bit of an afterthought. 

A stack of sticky notes lying on a desk next to a roll of dollars, with the word "dividends" written on the top note.

Image source: Getty Images.

The new and improved IBM works. The revenue decline that's been in place since 2012 has actually started to level off -- only crimped of late by COVID-19 -- en route to sustained growth. Ditto for profits. Analysts collectively expect top-line growth of around 1% this year and next to drive per-share earnings growth of 25% and 10%, respectively.

The key to the delightful disparity is the changing business mix.

As was noted, IBM is moving away from a tight focus on sales of hardware and toward software and services, which typically boast higher profit margin rates. There's even more to the story, though. As CFO Jim Kavanaugh recently explained of the company's 2019 acquisition of Red Hat "for every $1 [worth of business] we land on a hybrid cloud platform we see $3 to $5 of software drag and $6 to $8 dollars of services drag." Think razors and razor blades, or automatically refilled prescriptions, both of which help to reliably fund recurring dividend payments -- in this case, translating into a yield of 4.6%.

There's still much work that needs to be done, but a great deal of work has already been done.

2. A powerful title is within sight for Southern Company

Most lists of dividend stocks to buy typically include a utility company. This one will be no exception. Take a look at the Southern Company (NYSE:SO), which despite a 24% stock-price gain for the past year is still sporting a trailing dividend yield of just under 4%. That's a better payout than most of the major names in the utility business.

Boring? You bet. But that's the point. You'll never experience any serious stock-price growth with the Southern Company. You will, however, enjoy income streams paid with the same reliability as you pay your electricity bill. Consumers might postpone the purchase of a car or skip a trip to the mall, but they'll typically do whatever it takes to keep the lights on. That means making their monthly payment like clockwork.

There are higher-yielding options, for the record, but Southern Company's got something of a pedigree. It's not only not failed to make a dividend payment in every quarter for over 70 years now, but it has increased its annual dividend payout every year for the past 20. Just five years away from qualifying as a Dividend Aristocrat, it's a reasonably safe bet the utility name is going to do whatever it takes to avoid restarting the clock on earning that laudable title.

3. Kraft Heinz shares already reflected rising costs

Finally, add Kraft Heinz (NASDAQ:KHC) to your list of dividend stocks to buy this month while it's yielding 4.3%. Share prices have peeled back to the tune of 15% since mid-May, mostly on fears that inflation would make matters more than a little difficult for the company.

And to be fair, they have. Kraft Heinz acknowledged in last week's Q2 report it was indeed feeling the effects of higher input costs, prompting a 5% price plunge for the stock that very same day; not even the second quarter's sales and earnings beats were enough to stave off the selling. Largely lost in the noise at the time was the fact that shares had already priced in the pressure, as well as the likelihood that the company is (very) carefully and conservatively managing investor expectations.

Either way, last quarter's fairly typical per-share earnings of $0.78 is more than enough to cover the current quarterly dividend payment of $0.40 per share. The payment's underlying funding is well buffered from almost any headwinds.

Kraft Heinz is of course the name behind products like Kraft cheese and Heinz ketchup. That's only the beginning, though. Ore-Ida, Jell-O, Maxwell House, Oscar Mayer, Kool-Aid, and a bunch of other familiar brands are also part of the Kraft Heinz portfolio. This breadth of basic consumer goods also helps control against pricing or demand volatility the company may be experiencing with any particular product in any given quarter.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.