What is a Utility Function?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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Utility function is a means of accurately measuring the desirability of various types of goods and services, and the degree of well-being those products provide for consumers. As part of the process, factors such as customer satisfaction, ease of use, and the rate of consumption by customers is considered key to accurately assessing the utility of the product. This measure is normally presented in the form of a mathematical expression, and can be utilized with just about any type of good or service that is secured and used by a consumer.

Unlike other forms of measuring the success of a given product, the utility function does not concern itself with the amount of return generated for the entity that manufactures and sells the product. Instead, the focus is on the reaction of the consumer to the product. This can allow businesses to get an idea of whether or not customers will actually embrace a product before it is mass marketed, or if the product is likely to be of little worth to consumers and therefore not worth the time or money it would take to produce.


When applying the idea of utility function, it is important to focus on the ability of the product to catch the attention and imagination of the buying public. Once this element is identified, the formula will call for evaluating the degree of satisfaction that a consumer receives from owning the product. A third element has to do with the rate of consumption that is exhibited by consumers. The goal is to determine if the utility function of the product is high enough to make mass production feasible.

Assuming all three of these factors are at sufficient levels to warrant the continued manufacture of the product, the manufacturer will then determine if the cost of making the product in volumes high enough to keep up with the demand is feasible. If the product can be made at a cost that allows the company to turn a reasonable profit, there is a good chance that the company will move forward with offering the product to the public, at least until consumer tastes change and the product falls out of favor.

Utility function can also be employed with investments as well as with goods and services. If investors tend to obtain a great deal of satisfaction from owning a particular stock, and the perceived risk level is low enough to make the option desirable, and investors actively seek to secure more shares as they become available, it can be said that the utility function for the stock is high. Evaluating the utility of a stock is something that investors do continually as they seek to maximize the worth of their portfolios, and stay one step ahead of any impending shifts in the marketplace.


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Post 4

Define additive utility function.

Post 3

How are the factors that go into finding out the utility function measured? How do the people who are figuring it all out know how well consumers will like a product on a large scale?

Are surveys by consumers involved? I know a few people who actually make a little bit of extra money by taking surveys about products. I was just thinking that maybe this is how some of the information for these utility function equations are gathered.

Post 2

At what point is the utility function of a product determined? My husband has a lot of great idea all the time. In fact, he's had a couple of ideas that we then made by other people. It's very frustrating, but at least we know he has good ideas!

Is the utility function determined after a product is produced in a small market? Or is this determined before anything is made at all?

Post 1

If the utility function is presented in the form of a mathematical equation, is there a standard equation that is used for every product? Or does each product have a different equation based on different factors that need to be considered?

If there is one standard equation to use, what is it?

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