Everyone has to grow up eventually, even members of the generation pejoratively known for living in their parents’ basements.

Millennials may have enjoyed an extended childhood compared to pastgenerations, but key indicators show they are behavingmore like adults these days, said Bryan Melmed, vice president ofInsights Services for advertising intelligence providerExponential Interactive.

The problem is many marketers are still treating them like they’re digging in the sandbox.

Putting the Toys Aside

“Inthe past, marketers have relied on stereotypes, geography anddemographics in their attempt to reach millennials,” says Melmed. “Thisled to this generation being marketed to as children. They weren’tperceived to be hitting their adult hallmarks.”

If you want to engage with this group, it’s time to change your marketing ways.

While millennials are starting to act more like adults, it doesn’t mean they’ve turned into clones of their parents. “Firstand foremost, millennials are starting to hit the milestones that othergenerations consider essential to 'growing up,' just later in age andwhile retaining their own unconventional spin. They aren’t swayed bytraditionalist pressure. They explore their options and make personalchoices,” said Melmed.

What does this mean?

Millennialsare having babies and starting families, but they’re not necessarilygetting married before they do. They’re interested in building wealth,but they are more interested in entrepreneurshipthan climbing the corporate ladder. “Silicon Valley is this generation’sWall Street, typifying a broader rebuke of against traditionalwealth-building,” says Melmed.

Because they're growing in their own way, they have retained many of the values that defined this generation in the past. “Accordingto data we pulled analyzing online behavior across our network – one ofthe largest in the world with a global reach of 450 million –  millennials are still socially conscious. They're 45 percent more interested insustainable living and more culturally explorative than their oldercounterparts — for example, they're 22 percent more likely to prefer more diverse, globallyinfluenced cuisine and 18 percent more interested in world music," said Melmed.

Changing Marketing Strategies

To be  successful, marketing efforts aimed at millennials should be targeted at adults, but stillrecognize that this generation has some key differences with past generations.

Scrap the traditional advertising that relies on “telling” amessage in one-way communication, and start using newer, moreeffective methods, said Melmed. Millennials expect conversation andvariety and brands need to deliver if they want to reach them.

Learning Opportunities

What should you do? 

Recognizeone size does not fit all. Millennials are a generation, but they are also individuals. Don’t lump theminto one group and expect marketing to be successful. “Interests varywithin this audience, so it is nearly impossible to design content thatwill appeal to the audience as a whole,” said Melmed. What works  are products that are timeless and traditional. One successful brandthat illustrates this point is Ray-Ban sunglasses, which are bothclassic and have longevity.

Don’t assume they are theirparents. Just because someone becomes a mother doesn’t mean she’s going to act like her own mother. “Our data shows that while theyappreciate tradition and will acknowledge and sometimes incorporate theparenting strategies of previous generations, Millennials don’t entirelyshed their stereotypical values – especially with parenthood,” said Melmed. For example, millennial parents still maintain theirglobal-perspective and are interested in health, technology and socialissues.

Ensure your actions mirror your words. Nobody likesinsincerity, but millennials are really turned off by it. If you make a mistake, admit it. “As an example, after facinga lot of criticism over their controversial ingredients, Johnson &Johnson did a good job of authentically and honestly responding with acampaign that acknowledged their mistakes and consumer concerns andpledged to improve,” said Melmed.

Give them a good laugh. “Intelligence and asense of humor are valued above all,” he said. Brands shouldn’t takethemselves too seriously.

But don’t laugh at them. “This should beobvious, but no generation likes to be insulted in their advertising,”said Melmed. “Unsurprisingly, a number of ad campaigns have bombed itwhile trying to (maybe comically) play off negative millennialstereotypes to win their hearts.” One good example, is BusinessWeek’s2013 'Gets you ahead' campaign. Neither millennials nor their parents’seemed amused by the line 'our American dream is for you to move out.'"

Skip the small talk. Be direct and transparent whenever possible. “It’s also okay to take risksand laugh at yourself when you make mistakes. Millennials are extremelyforgiving as long as you’re forthright and candid,” he said.

After all,they’re adults now.