News stories about highly successful companies can be a great source of information and inspiration for managers mapping out their company's marketing plans. Problem is, they might miss the follow-up story--if one is done at all. That's why Alan Newman, president and founder of Magic Hat Brewery, in Burlington, Vt., tracks stories about a handful of companies that sell to the same "psychographic niche" as he does--companies he admires for their retail savvy and skillful brand management.

"For more than five years I've been following the stories of Benetton, Nike, and Hard Rock Cafe, and recently I added House of Blues to my list," says Newman. "By focusing my attention on a few companies over a longer period of time, I'm able to learn from their mistakes and successes along the way." Newman, who is working hard to build his fledgling brand nationally, reports that the microbrewery sold 15,000 barrels of beer in 1997, its third year of operation.