Isle of Arran Rebranding

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This case study examines the way in which Scotland’s Isle of Arran has boosted tourism through press campaigning and destination marketing. I used this resource to revise for Edexcel AS Geography – Unit 2: Geographical Investigations – Topic: Rebranding places. However, it may also be useful for other exam boards, both at A level and at GCSE.

What is rebranding?

Rebranding of a product means changing its image. It usually involves a product ‘makeover’, the roll-out of a new slogan or logo and perhaps a name change. This is accompanied by a campaign to raise product awareness through promotional literature and advertising in various media. Increasingly, this kind of process is being applied to the marketing of places by tourist boards and local businesses.

This case study examines bottom-up efforts of local firms in Scotland’s Isle of Arran to change their neighbourhood image. Top-down financial support from the European Union has funded an advertising campaign, allowed the employment of public relations (PR) firm and helped launch a new business model for island tourism. The goal? To establish Arran as a hub for visitor flows in an increasingly competitive globalised market place for tourism.

The wrong tourism

Arran has been a tourist destination since the 1800s, but island incomes have remained low and seasonal. There are few visitors between October and April each year. Picture postcards from the 1960s show what the island offered then: a wilderness experience well suited for walking holidays. Visitors – typically from family groups, holidayed for weeks at a time in cheap self-catering accommodation. 

In the past, the local tourist board promoted Arran using the slogan 'Scotland in Miniature', suggesting that the island's diverse geology, soils and vegetation mirrored Scotland as a whole. Arriving by ferry into Brodick, families would climb the mountain of Goat Fell, watch for wild deer and golden eagles, or explore important geological features like Hutton's unconformity. 

In 1965, National Geographic magazine wrote: 'No-one ever tried to turn Arran into a conventional resort. The native islander's attitude was "take it or leave it", an approach that preserved the island's beauty unsullied, the way we visitors wanted it'. 'Unsullied' suggests that Arran was an uncommercial resort. As recently as the 1990s, there were few all-weather indoor visitor attractions, and only Brodick Castle remained open in winter. Some restaurants and shops closed at summer's end, weakening the multiplier effect tourism brings.

Decline of visitors

To make matters worse, visitor numbers fell sharply after the 1980s due to:

  • The availability of budget flights ad cheap European holidays in sunnier climates (in contrast to the frequently wet Arran weather brought by Atlantic frontal activity)
  • The high costs of staying in Arran (a vicious circle - when tourist income falls, hotels often raise prices)

New millenium: time to rebrand

By the end of the 20th century the 'Scotland in Miniature' slogan had run out of steam and fresh action was required to raise visitor numbers. Arran's business community agreed that a new image and slogan were needed


Mr A Gibson

Absolutely fantastic case study and the benefit of learning about a beautiful place! This is very comprehensive and I recommend that you consider this as one of your main examples. Do not forget to "Test Yoursefl" a few times too.

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