Sir Ian Campbell was the son of Ian Douglas Campbell, 11th Duke of Argyll and his second wife, Louise Hollingsworth Morris Clews. He was educated at Institut Le Rosey in Switzerland and Glenalmond College in Scotland before going on to McGill University in Canada.
In 1953, he was made a Fellow in the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. He served with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, earning the rank of Captain.
On the death of his father in 1973, Sir Ian Campbell became a member of the Board of Directors of three distilleries and in 1977 became Chairman of Beinn Bhuidhe Holdings Ltd. in 1977. He was invested as a Knight in the Order of St. John in 1975.