The methodology employed used results obtained from both Google Trends and the Google AdWords Keyword Tool in order to estimate numbers of Google searches over time. Although the current analysis is limited to the ladies wedding headwear market, clearly the methodology could be applied to other industry sectors and provide useful data on trends in demand.
There are a number of caveats regarding how closely Google searches correlate to demand and different browsing/buying behaviours in different market segments. However, this methodology could provide a useful starting point to further market-specific investigations.
Rather surprisingly, the story appears to begin in earnest during the early months of 2008. In the previous 4 years searches for 'Fascinators' and 'Wedding Hats' had been few and far between, with a small number of spikes - e.g. April 2005 for 'Wedding Hats'. This could reflect a real phenomenon, developing reporting strategies at Google or a combination of the two. In any case, the current analysis can be most usefully restricted to 2008 to March 2012.
In the most recent 4 years, numbers of searches for 'Fascinators' by far surpassed those for 'Wedding Hats'. This trend is quite clear, with 'Fascinators' usually receiving three or four times as many searches. This strongly suggests greater overall demand for 'Fascinators', which is consistent with the author's experience (admittedly anecdotal evidence).
Search activity for both terms appears to have a seasonal cycle, with a pronounced dip during the winter months. Although in recent times this dip has decreased in depth, indicating more consistent demand throughout the year. Where the peak in demand normally occurs in mid-June for 'Fascinators' searches (around the time of Royal Ascot week), it is less easy to detect any such peak in the flatter distribution for 'Wedding Hats' searches.
The most striking feature of the distribution occurs during April 2011; the month of the Royal Wedding. The build up and TV coverage of the Prince William's marriage to Kate Middleton may have led to the substantial surge in Google searches for ladies wedding headwear during April 2011. The spike is most clear for searches for 'Wedding Hats', where the weekly estimate surpassed 1 million searches; a figure that exceeded the previous peak by more than 1,000%. 'Fascinators' searches show a more modest spike, at less than 400,000 estimated searches and roughly 250% of its previous high.
In conclusion, it appears that fascinators are consistently the favoured form of ladies wedding headwear. The notable exception was around the time of the Royal Wedding, when 'Wedding Hats' searches eclipsed those for 'Fascinators' for a short time. The impact of the Royal Wedding has been short-lived however, and the intervening months have seen a continuation of the historic trend.
Comparative Popularity of Fascinators and Wedding Hats