Apple has won another bunch of awards for being the western world’s number-one brand. This isn’t at all surprising as Apple has spent years finessing its cuddly but cool brand – so much so that it has an almost messianic image in the eyes of its army of cult-like followers (aka customers).

In the 1980s former Pepsi marketing exec John Sculley transformed Apple into the biggest computer company in the world, boosting its advertising budget from $15 million to $100 million. In 1997 Sculley told The Guardian: “Apple was the marketing company of the decade.”

Current CEO Steve Jobs spent another $100 million marketing just the bubble-shaped iMac. And the company has continued to push its brand through campaigns such as ‘Think Different’ and ‘Switch’, as well as through its ultra-cool iPod and iPhone.

Arch-rival Microsoft, on the other hand, clearly has major brand problems – as if you need to tell Mac users that. It won the following less-than-impressive Brandjunkie Survey 2008 awards: ‘Which brand do you want to argue with?’ and ‘If you could rebrand any brand, what brand would it be?’

What brand would you most like to sit next to at a dinner party? Apple won this one, and it’s easy to argue that Steve Jobs would make excellent company at your table – if only because you’d get to eat more of the filet mignon while he munched through the greens.

Although Steve would refuse to discuss anything new or even contemplate letting you know his choice of dessert, at least you could hear how brilliant the iPod and Leopard are, rather than learn all about the woes of Windows Vista – although I’m sure that Steve would drop a few of those in before the cheese board was brought out.

Apple’s the perfect guest – it has history, sex appeal, intelligence, sense of humour, taste and celebrity status.

Virgin was at number two, and I suspect that’s again about wanting to sit next to the company figurehead. Sir Richard Branson looks like fun, he’s rich and can get you upgraded to Upper Class.

At number six, sexy lingerie outlet – I really should rephrase that – Victoria’s Secret is an obvious choice, as are Absolut (9), Chanel (5) and Armani (10). But would you really like to sit next to Coca-Cola (4) unless you were the designated driver?

How about Google, which came in at number three? Well, the search engine may well have the answer to everything and it does pretend to be more civilised than most but it doesn’t actually create anything real itself, just listing and playing around with other people’s data. Wikipedia (unplaced) would be more direct but could begin to bore soon after starters.

Apple was also first choice in the category ‘What brand, if sent back 100 years, would have the biggest impact on the course of history?’. If Apple had been around in 1908 the world would certainly have been quite different, but would everything have to be either black or white and then suddenly be available in a rainbow palette of soft pastels? Imagine the first version of iLife: iPhoto 1’s tool to really bring out the sepia in your Kodak Brownie snaps; iMovie’s crazy silent movie onscreen title effects; and GarageBand’s super-fast 78rpm Gramophone setting allowing tracks longer than the standard two-minutes you’d get from rival phonograph cylinders.

We’d have spent less time inventing advanced mathematical functionality for calculators, and instead concentrated on making them as thin and touch-sensitive as possible – and making sure they could play video. And Apple could have sued The Beatles for infringing its copyright.

Other frontrunners are more curious. Coca-Cola (4) and Ford (5) really were around over 100 years ago. Even IBM (6) was going back then, although it was known as the Tabulating Machine Company. Facebook (unranked) was a surprise omission – world wars would have been a series of pokes and virtual pirate/zombie group battles, and change would have been far more rapid with mass-movement groups such as ‘We want our Ford Model Ts in more than just black’ or ‘Votes for Women – join our Facebook group’.

Cool but not cold Apple was a shoe-in for the category ‘Which brand inspires you the most?’, but what saddo is inspired by Coca-Cola (3) or Starbucks (5)? The same goes for the ‘If you were to describe yourself as being a brand, what brand would you be?.’ Comparing yourself to something cool, sexy and great looking is really not hard to imagine, but what’s so wrong with you that you’d describe yourself as sugary, fizzy and cold (Coca-Cola, 3, or Pepsi, 13)?

Could we really not survive without our Macs, iPods and a copy of iDVD? Apparently not, as Apple won the category ‘What brand can you not live without?’ as well. I’d have thought that Starbucks was a more realistic winner but the coffee shop limped in at number five. Marlboro Lights and heroin were strangely unplaced, but thank goodness that in second place was the more life-affirming ‘None’.

Finally, Apple triumphed as the brand ‘most likely to revolutionize the branding industry in the next five years’. Seeing as Apple has already revolutionised the branding industry several times over I guess it’s a fair bet that it will do it again. Facebook (4) is rightly up there but the third placed result “Doesn’t exist yet” is more likely correct, given the pace of change.

Apple’s brand has always been about people, and that’s a major reason it’s so loved. The Mac was the computer ‘for the rest of us’, and its launch advertising in the form of the 1984 TV ad was all about giving power back to the masses: the democratization of technology.

While it’s obvious that a lot of the 2,000 brandchannel readers from 107 countries who answered the 10-question online survey are Apple fans and/or work for Coca-Cola, it’s equally clear that Apple’s humanist brand remains as serious a component of its success as its sharp design or innovative technologies.