Form UtilityHow a product or service meets the needs of customers

Patrick Louie

Some products can sell themselves even without marketing intervention.

These are often basic necessities such as food, clothing, hygiene products, etc.

For example, you’ll need to feed yourself so that you can continue living.

As such, you’ll buy food because you need it.

These types of products have this inherent utility in them that makes them desirable for your average consumer.

Then there are products that target the wants and needs of a specific demographic.

For example, the Blackberry phone is a product that targeted the wants and needs of businesspeople.

It separated itself from the competition at the time by providing functions that a businessperson would need such as email functionality, web browsing, a QWERTY keyboard, and many more.

Banking on these specific or added features of a product is commonly known in marketing as form utility.

Do note that you don’t need to add extra features or benefits to a product or service for it to have form utility.

What matters is how it meets the needs of customers.

For example, let’s say that you’re an average consumer.

There’s an upcoming celebration and it’s your task to get cake.

Would you rather buy a cake or buy the ingredients to make a cake?

You’d probably just buy the cake, right?

While it can be cheaper to purchase the ingredients and make the cake, there is often more value in buying a cake that is made by a professional.

An average consumer probably won’t have the skills and knowledge of a baking expert.

You may be paying more, but you cannot deny that there’s more value in a cake made by a professional than just than ingredients that make a cake.

In this article, we’ll learn the importance of form utility in a business’s brand and product development.

What is Form Utility?

Form Utility

From a business perspective, form utility refers to the process of transforming raw materials into finished goods that the business will sell for revenue generation.

Businesses that market goods or services with form utility often do not sell individual components (e.g. raw materials, spare parts, etc.).

Rather, they sell products that are the result of processing these individual components.

For example, a car manufacturer would probably sell a whole car rather than its parts (e.g. wheels, tires, engine, etc.).

Form utility may also include how the product or service is marketed toward customers.

For example, a brand may distinguish itself from other similar products by marketing itself toward a specific demographic such as teenagers.

This is how various clothing brands typically market themselves.

Clothing from any brand will provide the same utility, but with form utility, the needs and wants of a specific demographic may be better met.

Form utility is an important concept in marketing, particularly in the brand and product development of a business.

It refers to how a product or service meets the needs (and wants in some cases) of the customer.

Understanding what a customer needs and wants in a product can help determine the features and functionalities that a business can bank on.

For example, a business may use form utility by targeting the specifications that a particular demographic desires.

This is the idea behind the ASUS ROG line of laptops.

This line was created with one goal in mind: to create the world’s most powerful and versatile gaming laptops.

These laptops are specifically designed to cater to the wants and needs of a certain demographic: gamers.

Form utility is only one of the components of the utility marketing model.

The other components are time, place, possession, and information.

The Value of Form Utility

When we think about it, one may be able to purchase the ingredients or components of a specific product.

You can purchase parts for a car, computer, or chair. But not everyone can process these parts into the desired product.

An average person would certainly not be able to make a car on their own.

It takes too much time and effort.

Also, an average person won’t be able to assemble their own computer without the necessary knowledge and expertise.

More often than not, an average person would rather buy a completed PC than exert extra effort in purchasing parts.

There’s a reason why customers understand and accept that a completed product has more value than its components.

These products are often more expensive than the sum of their components, yet customers still buy them.

And this is the backbone of form utility. It assumes that customers see more value in a finished form of a product than just its components.

For example, the average person would perceive more value from a cake than the ingredients to make one.

This may be because the cake is ready-to-eat. It also makes for a great gift.

Also, the customer would know that making a cake takes time and effort.

It also requires skills and expertise. Not everyone can make a ‘great; cake after all.

And because of these factors, customers understand and accept that a finished version of a cake has more value than its ingredients.

Form utility banks on how a product or service meets the wants and needs of the customers.

A product with form utility may only have the minimum specifications required to meet the needs of a customer.

It may also have added features and specifications to meet the wants and needs of a specific customer or demographic.

Form Utility: Examples

Form Utility

Laptops

There are certain functions that are necessary for any laptop. Just by having these necessary functions, there is already form utility in a laptop.

However, a laptop brand may differentiate itself from other brands by meeting the requirements of a particular demographic.

For example, there’s the previously mentioned ASUS ROG line of laptops that specifically cater to the needs of gamers.

There are also laptop brands that cater to the needs of price-conscious customers.

Rather than incorporating the most high-end components into their laptops, these brands focus on incorporating only what’s absolutely needed to bump down the price as much as they can.

There are also laptop brands that offer niche features such as being waterproof or extremely durable.

Smartphones

Similar to laptops, there are certain functions that are absolutely necessary for any smartphone to have.

Having these functions already means that there is form utility in a smartphone.

But it is well known that the smartphone market is a very competitive market.

Smartphones brand offer features and benefits to distinguish themselves from the competition.

For example, only iPhones use iOS. Other smartphone brands have their own versions of android.

Some focus on value – offering midrange specs for a low price. Some focus on offering high-end specs.

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  1. Monash Business School "Form Utility" Page 1 . November 7, 2022

  2. University of Minnesota "7.1 The Concept of Utility" Page 1 . November 7, 2022