Meet the Experts : Joe Portman

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Meet The Experts
This month, we’re chatting with our senior strategist, Joe Portman, to discuss how he helps brands to use defined trends and foresight for growth, a typical day in the life at The Lab and the trend he’s most excited for this year

: How would you describe your role and area of expertise at The Future Laboratory?

When describing my role as a senior strategist to clients, friends, family or people in the pub, I firstly explain that at The Future Laboratory we have a team that reveals the future, to which the common response is: ‘how?’ I explain that our foresight team outlines the global cultural and societal shifts seen today, which are then used to chart the future. My job is to use that defined future to help brands explore how it applies to their business, and importantly, what they need to do to use it for growth. This is commonly done using our Methodology and the development of strategic frameworks, tools and plans.

My background is in consumer research and marketing, where I’ve spent much of my career working with FMCG brands, for which I’ve helped develop research programmes designed to unearth insights that fuel their growth strategies.

: As a strategist, what does your typical day look like?

I’ll start by saying no two weeks are the same. But a typical week can involve receiving a new brief from a client, which may require unpacking to define the areas that will need investigation. I’ll work closely with the sales and accounts team to detail the conversations that led to us receiving the brief to get a handle on the client’s needs and expectations.

Meanwhile, I’ll spend time immersing myself in a topic or industry to develop our initial strategic thinking. This helps during a project kick-off, as it defines what we do and don’t already know. In the immersion process I read, compile and make sense of existing LS:N Global desk and client-provided research, speaking to subject experts at The Future Laboratory to understand initial drivers, shifts and trends shaping a space. And I will work alongside strategic foresight analysts to map our thinking, organising it into strategic research areas.

For projects further along in the process, my job can be defined by one word: ‘simplification’. Our research unearths stacks of findings, which on their own can be complex, conceptual or abstract. To simplify and contextualise it for clients, helping solve the brief’s central question, I develop tools, models or frameworks that translate foresight into client opportunities, adding the ‘so what?’ and ‘now what?’ to our work. 

Suffice to say, there’s plenty more, such as expert interviews, client working sessions and debriefs… the list goes on.  

Published by:

6 September 2022

Author: Abi Buller

Image: The Future Laboratory

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Left: Joe Portman. Right: Labmeta for The Future Laboratory.

: How do you go about turning The Future Laboratory trends into practical and strategic implications? 

 

While our foresight programmes focus on building a range of macrotrends from emerging cultural and societal shifts, my role as a strategist is to help clients use these trends to make future-proofed business decisions. Trend implications can be far-reaching, affecting brands and categories in uniquely different ways. It therefore falls to me to consider the context of our clients’ businesses and how they should respond.


This happens as part of our opportunity mapping tool, which lays out the factors beyond the cultural landscape that need to be considered for this process. They include commercial relevance, cultural fit to the brand, category and competitive advantage offered, and consumer connection. This tool helps to validate and prioritise both the trend and commercial factors driving a strategic opportunity.

I frequently ask myself ‘What does this mean?’ or ‘What are the implications of this?’, which drive any opportunity mapping I do.

 

: What is your favourite way to unwind?

Most people who know me know that I play golf to unwind, although admittedly, it sometimes brings more frustration than relaxation. 

: Your go-to working snack and after-work tipple?

Nothing beats a post-work Guinness; that or a random hipster IPA. 

: What was your Plan B career?

Before getting into strategy, some of my first experiences in industry were spent working for video production companies. Not quite an aspiring Tom Cruise, but I found the process of making TV and film fascinating. 

: What trend are you most excited about for the year ahead?

I’m excited to see how The Betterverse plays out, specifically how the novelty and frivolity of the metaverse will mature to factor in ethics and its impact on the health of users. We’ve already seen some pioneering brands demonstrate an interest in the metaverse, and I’m watching closely to see how the space moves from novelty to utility. 

‘I frequently ask myself ‘What does this mean?’ or ‘What are the implications of this?’, which drive any opportunity mapping I do.’
Joe Portman, senior strategist, The Future Laboratory
 

Want to learn more about life at The Lab?

Here at The Future Laboratory, our team are constantly striving for betterment in all areas, particularly for people and the planet. By holding ourselves and each other to account in a compassionate way, we have built a culture that allows each of us to do our best work.

Learn more about our commitments, both as individuals and as a community at The Future Laboratory with our Cultural Charter.


Discover our cultural charter